Tuesday, July 21, 2009

#290 Wally Bunker

#290 Wally Bunker
This is what card collecting is all about. An Oriole, a Rookie Cup, and an impressively miscut piece of cardboard. Oh yeah.

Fun facts about Wally Bunker:

-Originally from Seattle, Bunker signed with the Orioles in 1963.

-Went 10-1 with a 2.55 ERA at A-level Stockton in his first pro season to earn a September promotion to Baltimore. He was just eighteen at the time!

-Made the big league club out of Spring Training in 1964 and had an incredible rookie season, leading the O's with a 19-5 record, a 2.69 ERA, and a 1.04 WHIP. His .792 win percentage led the American League. It's hard to believe that he finished a distant second in Rookie of the Year balloting, but winner Tony Oliva's .323 average, 32 home runs, and 94 RBI were pretty persuasive. However, Wally was The Sporting News' AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year.

-Wally was known for a sharp sinker; Mickey Mantle said that it was a pitch "you could break your back on". The Mick went 2-for-9 (.222) with one RBI vs. the young righty.

-Unfortunately, he came up with a "sore arm" (likely torn tendons or ligaments that went undetected) in 1965, and injuries would severely affect his career thereafter. He did win 10 games in that season and the following one, but his earned run average climbed steadily.

-Wally had one last moment in the sun with the Orioles in the 1966 World Series, twirling a 1-0 shutout of the Dodgers on six hits. He struck out six batters in the second of three consecutive whitewashes by the young Baltimore pitchers, who stunned the favored L.A. team in a four-game sweep.

-After health woes limited Bunker to 159 innings combined in 1967 and 1968, the Birds left him unprotected in the expansion draft. He was claimed by the Royals, and threw the first pitch in team history the following April.

-Staying on the mound for a full season for the first time in years, Wally led Kansas City with a 12-11 record and 3.23 ERA in 1969.

-In 1969, Bunker tossed the last of three career one-hitters. However, there wasn't much drama in those games. Jay Johnstone's single to lead off the seventh in the September 11, 1969 game was the deepest that Wally went into one of his gems without surrendering a hit.

-He suffered through another injury-marred campaign the following year (2-11, 4.22), and threw his last pitch in the majors at age 26. For his career, he won 60 and lost 52 with a 3.51 ERA in parts of nine seasons.
#290 Wally Bunker (back)


  1. I love the cartoon on the back with the rookie trophy in his back pocket. Probably my favorite cartoon on all the rookie cup cards.

  2. When I was 14 in 1965 I graduated from Little League to Babe Ruth ball and figured I needed a bigger, better glove than my Al Smith Sears model I'd used for about 5 years. My Dad and I went to Salvino's Sporting Goods in Nutley N.J. and bought the biggest, most expensive glove they had, the Rawlings Wally Bunker model (Heart of the Hide baby!!). That glove was my first love. I good better care of it than I did my dog. In fact after 45 seasons of baseball, softball and summer catches with my kids I'm still using it. Sure has taken a beating, the stuffing is loose and I've had it re-strung about 5 times, but it still is going strong. When it falls apart I'll retire.

  3. It has been bugging me for about 17 years but I don't think Wally Bunker was there when Memorial Stadium closed. Just about every other Oriole notable was there but I did not see Wally. It seemed a shame that he wasn't part of the big day having had one of the best years ever for an Orioles pitcher and having won such a crucual game (WS #3, 1966)

  4. Max - That is a nice touch! I also like the cowlick on the kid's head.

    Bob - Great story and photos! My first glove was a hand-me-down from my dad, with Catfish Hunter's stamp of approval. The first of my own was a black Rawlings Ken Griffey, Jr. I still have it - you can't even make out his facsimile signature!

    I also loved reading the blog post about Bunker in the Sun. Small world.

    Anon. - I never noticed! They replay that game often on Orioles Classics on MASN. I'll have to look for Wally next time.