Last season, Jim Nash and Lew Krausse hurled to the head of the Athletics’ young pitching staff. Nash fashioned a 10-4 record after joining the club from Mobile of the Southern League early in July. Krausse, after spending more than a month in the bull pen, also finished with 10 wins and led the team in ERA. Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter, on the shelf for more than two months because of an appendicitis attack, had a 9-14 record.
Now Hunter, a three-year veteran at 21, has become the most effective starter on Manager Al Dark’s crew of youthful flingers. In his first three starts, the $375,000 bonus player from Hertford, N.C., has beaten the pennant winner Orioles without his best stuff then went the distance in Fenway Park in a 5-2 win, Hunter’s second of the season.
When the A’s moved into Baltimore for their first series, Hunter was the object of trade talk. With the emphasis on his fast ball, Hunter struck out seven Birds in only five innings. The Orioles quickly showed more interest in Hunter. Ed Lopat, administrative assistant for the A’s, and Dark agreed that Hunter was no longer available.
“I’ve never seen a pitcher throw that hard for nine innings,” remarked Dark after Hunter’s night in Boston. “Yeah,” agreed Hunter, “that’s the best fast ball I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t a strain.It was natural.” Hunter, who last October married his high school sweetheart, believes a switch in his windup has been one of the factors in his improvement early this season. “I changed my windup three times last year,” said Hunter. “I rock back more now, and I keep the ball in my glove instead of my hand. I think that hides the ball better.”