Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wally Bunker

There are some players from Orioles history that I really feel like I should have covered by this point in my blogging, and Wally Bunker is certainly one of them.  He was a star rookie for the team in 1964 and was a key part of the Orioles 1966 World Series sweep of the Dodgers. But this is the very first mention of him on my site in almost four years of writing. I think that at least part of the delay was the fact that I knew I should have covered him sometime long ago, and the longer I didn't do it, the better I felt like the post should be; but don't expect anything great from me. After all that, I still don't have a lot to say about Wally.

The Orioles signed Bunker straight out of high school in 1963 and he joined the team later that same year, appearing in one game with the team when he was just 18 years old. He was dominant throughout 1964, his first full MLB season, and went 19-5 with a 2.69 ERA over 29 starts which earned him the Sporting News A.L. Rookie Pitcher of the Year award. He was so dominant that Baltimore'e mayor at the time officially christened the pitching mound at Memorial Stadium "Baltimore's Bunker Hill" with dirt from the actual Bunker Hill. Unfortunately, in a game late that season, Wally suffered an arm injury that he likened to being shot, which was never properly diagnosed and he was never able to repeat the success from his rookie campaign.

He continued to be at least an average big league pitcher over the next seven seasons. One highlight was the  shut out he pitched against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the '66 World Series, which was part of the 33 1/3 consecutive shutout innings that the Orioles pitching staff reeled off during the series. He also was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 1969 expansion draft and threw the first pitch in the history of the team.

By 1971, his arm injuries were too much for him to overcome and he threw his final big league pitch at just 26 years old. However in a few interviews that took place in more recent years, it sounds like Wally is very much at peace with how his career worked out. I think I can safely say that most of us would be satisfied having done what he did before he turned 27!

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