James Augustus Hunter
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 195 lb.
- High School Perquimans County High School
- Debut May 13, 1965
- Final Game September 17, 1979
- Born April 8, 1946 in Hertford, NC USA
- Died September 9, 1999 in Hertford, NC USA
"He's the Robin Roberts of the generation. He's a grinder. He's got a tremendous ERA. He's consistent. He's great to play behind because he gets rid of the ball." - Dick Williams
Hunter was known as a skilled control pitcher, and was one of the best big game pitchers of the 1970s. He won 21 or more games five years in a row (1971-1975) and tied for the major league lead in wins in 1974 (25) and 1975 (23). Hunter also won the Cy Young Award while leading the major leagues in ERA in 1974. Hunter was an eight-time All-Star who earned five World Series championship rings and threw the first regular season perfect game in the American League in 46 years in 1968. The outing after his perfect game, he was roughed up for 8 runs, the worst outing by a pitcher following a perfecto until Phil Humber in 2012.
Hunter began his major league career playing for the Kansas City and Oakland Athletics. It was the PR-conscious Athletics' owner Charles O. Finley that gave Hunter the nickname "Catfish" in an effort to pique fan interest (see Jim Grant and Vida Blue). By 1974, Hunter and Finley had fallen out due to a contract dispute. Hunter complained that Finley refused to make statutory payments to Hunter's life insurance. The dispute was eventually referred to arbitrator Peter Seitz, who declared the contract breached, thus nullifying the standard reserve clause and making Hunter a free agent. As the first free agent of the modern era, he signed with the New York Yankees for the then-unprecedented sum of $3.75 million over 5 years.
Catfish Hunter was the 4th (and, as of 2007, last) American League pitcher to win 20 games in a season for five consecutive seasons (1971-1975). The others were Walter Johnson (10), Lefty Grove (7) and Bob Feller (5), though Jim Palmer did have two streaks of four consecutive years (1970-1973 and 1975-1978), for 8 in 9 years.
Hunter's teams were very successful; he appeared in 6 out of 7 World Series from 1972-1978, only missing out in 1975. Hunter retired from baseball after the 1979 season, at the age of 33. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987. When asked to choose which team to go into the Hall of Fame as, Hunter notably refused to choose between the Athletics and Yankees, loving both franchises equally. His plaque is one of the few with no insignia on the cap. The Athletics retired his number 27 jersey.
Hunter wrote two cookbooks - Cooking with Catfish Hunter, a diabetic-friendly cookbook, and Catfish Hunter's Southern Cookbook.
Hunter died in Hertford, NC, where he was born, after falling and hitting his head. He had been suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He was only 53 years old.
In 1975, he was the subject of the Bob Dylan song Catfish.
"The sun don't shine on the same dog's ass all the time." - Catfish Hunter
- 8-time AL All-Star (1966, 1967, 1970 & 1972-1976)
- AL Cy Young Award Winner (1974)
- AL ERA Leader (1974)
- 2-time AL Wins Leader (1974 & 1975)
- AL Innings Pitched Leader (1975)
- AL Complete Games Leader (1975)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 7 (1970-1976)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 5 (1971-1975)
- 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1974)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 10 (1967-1976)
- 300 innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1974 & 1975)
- Won five World Series with the Oakland Athletics (1972, 1973 & 1974) and the New York Yankees (1977 & 1978)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1987
|AL Cy Young Award|
|Jim Palmer||Catfish Hunter||Jim Palmer|
- Jeff English: "James 'Catfish' Hunter", in Chip Greene, ed.: Mustaches and Mayhem, Charlie O's Three-Time Champions: The Oakland Athletics 1972-74, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 66-73. ISBN 978-1-943816-07-1
- Catfish Hunter (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, June 1973, pp. 35-36 
- Catfish Hunter and Armen Keteyian: Catfish: My Life in Baseball, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, NY, 1988.
- Jason Turbow: Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, MA, 2017. ISBN 9780544303171
- Catfish Hunter at the SABR Bio Project
- BR Minors page
- Account of Hunter's perfect game
- Lyrics to Catfish