Kentucky has lost a one-of-a-kind in the passing of Jim Bunning. He was a larger-than-life political leader, a sports legend, a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is public servant, and an intense competitor in both politics and athletics.
Bunning had served at every level of elected office, including the Fort Thomas City Council, the Kentucky Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and finally the U.S. Senate. On each rung of the ladder, he was an unyielding advocate and protector for his constituents.
He was staunchly conservative, both fiscally and morally. He refused to relent in his opposition to government overspending. And he was absolutely unbending in his opposition to abortion.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it correctly when he said Bunning had “led a long and storied life.”
“From his days in the major leagues to his years as my colleague in the Senate -- and the many points in between, from the City Council to the House of Representatives -- Jim rarely shied away from a new adventure,” McConnell said in a statement. “This Hall of Famer will long be remembered for many things, including a perfect game, a larger-than-life personality, a passion for Kentucky, and a loving family.”
Bunning, a right-hander, pitched his way through the big leagues from 1955 to 1971, starting with the Detroit Tigers and then playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies. He threw no-hitters in both the National and American leagues, including a perfect game for the Phillies on Father's Day 1964.
Bunning was one of those rare politicians who stood on his convictions and would not yield to political pressure or the howls of critics.
“I have been booed by 60,000 fans in Yankee Stadium, standing alone on the mound, so I have never cared if I stood alone in the Congress, as long as I stood by my beliefs and my values,” Bunning once said.
Men like Bunning come along once in a lifetime. Kentucky and America are better places because of his contributions.