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Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame pitcher and US senator, dead at 85

May 27 (Reuters) - Jim Bunning, who showed much of the same combativeness as a U.S. congressman as he had during his Hall of Fame career as a deceptive pitcher in baseball's major leagues, died at the age of 85, his son said on Saturday.

"Heaven got its No 1 starter today. Our lives & the nation are better off because of your love & dedication to family," read a Twitter message from his son, David Bunning.

Bunning, who became the first Hall of Famer to serve in the U.S. Congress, representing Kentucky in the U.S. Senate and a Cincinnati-area district in the House of Representatives, led a "long and storied life," said Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader.

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Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame pitcher and US senator, dead at 85
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Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame pitcher and US senator, dead at 85
CINCINNATI - 1966: Pitcher Jim Bunning #14 of the Philadelphia Phillies poses for a portrait prior to a 1966 game against the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Diamond Images/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI - 1966: Pitcher Jim Bunning #14 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch during a 1966 game against the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Diamond Images/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Phillies World Series Team: (Back row) Left to right: Jim Bunning; Clay Dalrymple; Ruben Amaro; Bob Wine; John Herrnstein; Wes Covington; Gus Triandos; Ed Roebuck; Vic Power; Chris Short. (Second row) Left to right: Trainer Joe Liscio; Rich Allen; Bobby Shants; Ray Culp; John Briggs; Frank Thomas; Rick Wise; Alex Johnson; Jack Baldshun; Dan Cater; Cookie Rojas. (Front row) Left to right: Tony Taylor; Dennis Bennett; John Callison; Coach Al Widmar; Coach Peanuts Lowrey; Manager Gene Mauch; Coach George Myatt; Coach Bob Oldis; Art Mahaffey; John Boozer; Tony Gonzales. Bat Boys, left to right: Charles Bauer, Ken Bush.
circa 1957: Detroit Tigers pitcher Jim Bunning pitches during a practice game, bending forward with one leg stretched back, late 1950s. (Photo by Photo File/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1964: Pitcher Jim Bunning #14 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on from the dugout during a Major League Baseball game circa 1964. Bunning played for the Phillies from 1964-67. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1964: Pitcher Jim Bunning #14 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during an Major League Baseball game circa 1964. Bunning played for the Phillies from 1964-67. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - CIRCA 1964: Pitcher Jim Bunning #14 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during a circa 1964 Major League Baseball game at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bunning played for the Phillies 1964-67 and 1970-71. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1964: Pitcher Jim Bunning #14 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during an Major League Baseball game circa 1964. Bunning played for the Phillies from 1964-67. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
SARASOTA, FL - MARCH, 1961: Pitcher Jim Bunning, of the Detroit Tigers, poses for a portrait prior to a Spring Training game against the Chicago White Sox in March, 1961 in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) USA: Tiger pitcher Jim Bunning, relaxes at home 7/21 after pitching a no hitter against Boston at Fenway Park 7/20, as he shows three year old son, Jim, how to grip ball although the youngster has to wait a few years before he can put it to use.
American baseball player Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies puts on his shoes in the locker room at Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 28, 1971. Earlier in the day he had announced his retirement, making this his second to last appearance in a Phillies uniform. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Betty Images)
Phils manager Frank Lucchesi (foreground) and Jim Bunning are the thumbees, Stan Landes the thumber. September 23, 1970. (Photo by William N. Jacobellis/New York Post Archives / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
MAY 10 1976, MAY 11 1976, MAY 12 1976; Bunning, Jim - Baseball Manager; Oklahoma city Manager; Proud of his 89ers.; (Photo By Ernie Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Rep. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., at GOP convention in August 1992. (Photo by Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Rep. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., during an interview with Bill Thomas. (Photo by Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Philadelphia, PA.: Close up of Jim Bunning, a former baseball pitcher at Philadelphia veterans stadium where he is being honored for a 1964 perfect game. He is currently the GOP candidate for the Governor of Kentucky.
American baseball player (and future politician) Jim Bunning looks over a contract, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1971. (Photo by Jack Tinney/Getty Images)
Rep. Arlan Stangeland, R-Minn. receiving some coaching from Rep. Jim Bunning, R-Ky. October 26, 1989. (Photo by Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)'n
Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Jim Bunning talks with supporters and urges them to get out and vote on election day at a campaign stop November 2 in Louisville. Bunning is running against U.S. Rep. Scott Beaseler, the Democratic candidate, in a race that is too close to call. Looking on, are Bunnings family, left to right, son David Bunning, wife Mary Bunning and daughter Any Towles. JPS/SV
U.S. Senator from Kentucky, and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, throws the first pitch in heavy rain before the start of the Phillies home opener against the Chicago Cubs in Philadelphia, April 6, 2001. Bunning's number 14 was retired by the Phillies before the start of the game. TMS/ME
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000: Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) during an Armed Forces Committee hearing. (Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 07: Senator Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, arrives for a news briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on a bill introduced with Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, the ?Fair Trade Currency Act of 2007.? (Photo by Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 of Major League Baseball's World Series in Philadelphia, October 27, 2008. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a Hall of Fame pitcher, talks about progress made by the Major League Baseball in dealing with steroids in Washington November 15, 2005. Bunning said he was pleased that baseball had toughened its performance-enhancing drug standards, but that proposed legislation to deal with the problem would remain on the table in case the problem worsened. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a Hall of Fame pitcher, talks about progress made by the Major League Baseball in dealing with steroids in Washington November 15, 2005. Bunning said he was pleased that baseball had toughened its performance-enhancing drug standards, but that proposed legislation to deal with the problem would remain on the table in case the problem worsened. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Hall of Fame pitcher and now Senator Jim Bunning (L) (R-KY) puts his hand on the shoulder of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito during their meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington January 24, 2006. In the foreground is a baseball that Bunning signed and gave to Alito. A sharply divided Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved President George W. Bush's nomination of Alito to the Supreme Court, moving the 55-year-old conservative a step closer toward confirmation by the full Republican-led Senate. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), member of the baseball hall of fame, testifies at the House Committee on Government reform in Washington March 17, 2005. The hearing named "Restoring Faith in America's Pastime - Evaluating Major League Baseball's efforts to eradicate steroid use" is also hearing from other past and present baseball greats. REUTERS/Jason Reed JIR
CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 27: Hall of Fame pitcher and former Kentucky senator Jim Bunning looks on after throwing out the first pitch before the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on June 27, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Cubs defeated the Reds 11-8. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 27: Hall of Famer Jim Bunning is introduced during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Clark Sports Center on July 27, 2014 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 10: Phillies Alumni Jim Bunning stands on the field during a pre game ceremony before a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on August 10, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 7-6. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
US Senator Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, questions US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan (not pictured) as he testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on the state of the country's housing market on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 20, 2009. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 02: Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., asks the Senate doorkeepers if photographers are allowed in the Senate Reception Room after he left the Senate floor on Tuesday, March 2, 2010. The doorkeepers informed the Senator that photographers are allowed in the room. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 29: Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) rubs his eyes during the full Senate Finance Committee markup of 'The America's Health Future Act' September 29, 2009 in Washington, DC. The committee is expected this week to tackle the issues of how to pay for the proposed health care plan and whether or not it should include a public insurance option with amendments offered by Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Schumer. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 19: U.S. Sen.Jim Bunning (R-KY) speaks during a confirmation hearing for Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York Neil Barofsky before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill November 19, 2008 in Washington, DC. Barofsky will become the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Assets Relief Program if confirmed. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 27: Former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to game five of the 2008 MLB World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays on October 27, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
KRT US NEWS STORY SLUGGED: BBO-STEROIDS KRT PHOTO BY CHUCK KENNEDY/KRT (March 17) WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, testifies during a hearing by the House Government Affairs Committee looking into the use of steroids among major league baseball players. (Photo by Chuck Kennedy/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 11: Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, a Hall of Fame pitcher, delivers a pitch prior to the game between the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals at the Ballpark in Arlington on July 11, 2003 in Arlington, Texas. The Royals won 13-3. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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"From his days in the major leagues to his years as my colleague in the Senate ... Jim rarely shied away from a new adventure," McConnell, one of Kentucky's current senators, said in a statement.

A foe of abortion and gay marriage and a backer of tax cuts, gun rights and the Iraq war, the conservative Republican served in the House from 1987 to 1998, when he was first elected to the Senate.

After two terms, Bunning announced he would not seek re-election in 2010 due to difficulty raising funds. His erratic behavior by that point had made him something of an embarrassment for Republican colleagues.

Bunning remained combative in his final year in office, single-handedly holding up an emergency appropriations bill for several days as a one-man protest against federal spending.

In a baseball career that covered much of the 1950s and 1960s, Bunning pitched no-hitters for both the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, becoming the first pitcher to hurl such gems in both the American and National leagues.

While he won plenty of headlines as a baseball standout, the broad, tall and white-haired Bunning was more of a backup in Congress.

Time magazine, in April 2006, ranked Bunning as among the nation's "five worst senators," dubbing him "the underperformer" who was hostile to his staff and showed little interest in policy unless it involved baseball.

Still, Bunning had his moments on Capitol Hill.

As a member of the ethics committee, Bunning helped lead the charge against a House banking overdraft scandal in 1992 that contributed to Democrats losing control of the chamber two years later for the first time in four decades.

In 1993, five years before President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House on charges stemming from having an affair with an intern, Bunning drew attention when he denounced the then newly elected Democrat as "corrupt," "amoral" and "despicable."

In 2002, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, he teamed up with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California to win passage of legislation to arm airline pilots.

Bunning won re-election to the Senate in 2004 in a bitter contest that raised questions about his mental health and strange behavior.

At one point, Bunning said his opponent, Democratic state senator Daniel Mongiardo, looked like one of the sons of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and accused Mongiardo of passing on "horrible rumors" about Bunning's health.

Bunning also refused to give the news media advanced notice of his appearances, began to travel with a security guard and accused his opponent's staffers of having physically run into his wife at a campaign event, leaving her black and blue.

The Courier-Journal editorialized: "Is he, as he ages, just becoming a more concentrated version of himself: more arrogant, more prickly?"

"Or is his increased belligerence an indication of something worse? Has Senator Bunning drifted into a territory that indicates a serious health concern?"

On Election Day, Bunning, who once enjoyed a big lead in the polls, narrowly defeated Mongiardo, with 51 percent to 49 percent.

The following year, Bunning, who played baseball during an era marked by low wages and an open devotion to the game, introduced a bill to crack down on performance-enhancing drugs in pro sports.

Just hours before the Senate was expected to pass the measure, Major League Baseball and its players association announced an agreement to toughen drug tests and penalties.

"This is what I had hoped for all along, for the two private parties to come to an agreement on their own without Congress having do it for them," Bunning said, adding he hoped "they did it for the fans, parents and children, as well as the integrity of the game."

Bunning was born on Oct. 23, 1931, in Southgate, Kentucky. He entered the minor leagues in 1950 and made it to the major leagues six years later after graduating from Xavier University.

In 1957, Bunning became the only pitcher ever to strike out Ted Williams, considered one of baseball's greatest hitters, three times in one game.

He had a no-hitter for the Detroit Tigers in 1958, and in 1964 pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies, having retired every batter in nine innings without giving up a hit or a walk. Only 23 major league pitchers have achieved the feat since 1904, according to Baseball Almanac.

Bunning also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers.

He retired in 1971 with a lifetime record of 224 wins and 184 losses and a reputation of hitting batters who challenged him with an inside fastball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

Before being elected to Congress, Bunning worked as an investment broker and agent and served in the Kentucky state Senate. He and his wife Mary had nine children. (Reporting by Frank McGurty in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish and Marguerita Choy)

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