This day in baseball history: Bunning vs. Marichal (with surprise ending)

On May 30, 1967, Jim Bunning opposed Juan Marichal in a battle of future Hall of Famers at Candlestick Park. Both pitchers went the full nine innings, but it was hardly a classic pitchers’ duel. Together, they allowed nine runs and 16 hits. They struck out only seven and walked six.

Bunning began the day 3-5 with a 3.75 ERA. Marichal was having a typical scintillating season. His record was 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA.

Both pitchers were rocked in the first inning. In the top of the first, Marichal yielded a single to Philadelphia’s lead off batter, Tony Gonzalez, and a home run to the second batter, Johnny Briggs. But San Francisco got the two back in the bottom of the inning in identical fashion — a lead off single by Jesus Alou, immediately followed with a home run by Tom Haller.

Marichal and Bunning quickly found their form and there were no more runs until the bottom of the sixth. Bunning was particularly impressive, allowing no hits from the second inning through the fifth.

In the bottom of the sixth, with one out, Willie McCovey doubled. One out later, Ollie Brown drove him home with a single.

The Phillies pulled back even in the top of the seventh on a home run by light hitting catcher Clay Dalrymple, a .132 hitter coming into the game. It was only Dalrymple’s second homer of the season. He would end the year with three.

After Bunning set the Giants down 1-2-3 in the seventh, Philadelphia took the lead in the eighth on an unearned run. Gonzalez led off with a single. Richie Allen walked with one out. Marichal induced a ground ball from Johnny Callison that might have ended the inning. However, reserve infielder Bob Schroder failed to handle it, and a run scored.

Bunning failed to hold the lead in the bottom of eighth. He retired Alou to begin the inning, but Haller homered for the second time to tie the game.

With the two Willies, Mays and McCovey, up next, a modern manager would likely have pulled Bunning. The Phillies had a strong bullpen, anchored by the two Dicks, Hall and Farrell. But manager Gene Mauch stayed with his ace.

Bunning got Mays on a pop-up, walked McCovey (pitching very carefully, I assume), and then retired Jim Davenport.

Marichal had allowed four runs, eight hits, and two walks through eight innings. Giants manager Herman Franks had good relievers available — Ron Herbal, Bill Henry, and Frank Linzy (ERA 0.60). Yet, like Mauch, Franks stayed with his ace.

Marichal retired Tony Taylor, who led off the inning. Bunning was the next scheduled batter. Surely, Mauch would send up a pinch hitter to bat for his tiring pitcher.

But Bunning stayed in. He wasn’t a bad hitting pitcher. Early in his career, he was a .200 hitter. But by 1967, he had fallen off at the plate. Coming into this game, he was batting .125.

Bunning did have one home run, though. It came at the expense of Atlanta’s Ken Johnson, and was the fifth of his long career.

On this day, he hit his sixth. How embarrassed must the prideful Marichal must have been!

Bunning had given the Phils a 5-4 lead. Now he had to be his own closer.

No problem. In the bottom of the ninth, he set down the Giants in order — Brown on a fly ball, Schroder on a ground ball, and pinch hitter Norm Siebern, an old American League adversary, on another grounder.

This game was the beginning of a turnaround for Bunning. What was shaping up as a mediocre year turned out to be one of his best. He finished 1967 with 2.29 ERA, his lowest ever. Bunning also won 17 games. That he lost 15 was due to poor run support, a problem that plagued the ornery right-hander during much of his career.

1967 would be Bunning’s last good year. After the season, the Phillies traded him to Pittsburgh for veteran pitcher Woody Fryman and a package of prospects, one of whom — Don Money — went on to have a good career.

The Pirates hoped that Bunning would lift them from contender to pennant winner. However, he went 13-14 in his two seasons with the Bucs. In both, his ERA was near 4.00. And Pittsburgh went nowhere.

Bunning finished the 1969 season with the Dodgers and then returned to the Phillies. He managed a 10-15 season (with a 4.11 ERA) in 1970 for a very bad team, but was dreadful in 1971, his last year as a player.

After that, Bunning managed for five seasons in the Phillies minor league organization at Reading, Eugene, Toledo, and Oklahoma City (career record 338-363). Then, it was on to politics and eventually two terms in the U.S. Senate.

Bunning, who died a few days ago, once responded to criticism from fellow Republican Senators by saying:

When you’ve dealt with Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra and Stan Musial (Bunning faced “Stan the Man” in two all-star games), the people I’m dealing with now are kind of down the scale.

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