Saturday, June 21, 2008

The 'Perfect' Father's Day Gift

It's a widely known fact that no Pond Scum Mets pitching has ever thrown a no-hitter let a perfect game. In this final year of Shea Stadium, the days are running out in which a Mets pitcher can perform such a feat in he teams stench filled storied venue.

However, that is not to say that a pitcher has never thrown a no-hitter in Shea Stadium. Bob Moose threw one in 1969 for the Pirates (I never thought Bob Moose would ever come up twice on this blog). The more important or notable no-hitter was thrown by (now Kentucky Senator) Jim Bunning.

Jim Bunning was not one of the more overpowering pitchers in baseball history but he was certainly one of the smartest. He is also known imfamously for his role in the 1964 collapse of Gene Mauch's Phillies. Bunning and Chris Short were the golden arms of that team, helping to push them to their large lead late in the '64 season. However, Mauch became consumed by the hard charging Cardinals and began to overuse (and abuse) both Bunning and Short. In fact, in the final 21 days of the season, Mauch used Bunning and Short 13 times!

In a bright spot of that 1964 season was Father Day, June 21st. Some 44 years ago today, Bunning took the mound in Shea Stadium for the first part of a double header and retired 27 straight Mets hitters. He did so in striking out 10 batters.

Philadelphia never trailed in the game and extended their lead to 6 in the 6th, leaving Bunning without the extra pressure of preserving a small lead.

As far as the kinescope goes, not much is known. From what I have gathered, only the bottom of the 9th inning and the postgame interview remains. This is common place for most 'spontaneous acheievement' games during the kinescope era. A station manager or club employee would take note of what was happening and begin to hastily record the final pitches of the game.

The kinescope of the 9th in black and white (per usual) and the transfers I've seen are in pristine condition. The broadcast is the WOR-TV broadcast with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy. At the conclusion of the 9th inning, Ralph Kiner hosts 'Kiner's Korner' on the field, interviewing Jim Bunning about the feat.

What is remarkable is how receptive the New York fans and broadcasters are to Bunning's performance. The crowd stands and cheers his every pitch, Kiner seems giddy at what Bunning had just done.

Of note, in the second half of the DH, Rick Wise (another reference!) and Johnny Klippstein would hold the Mets to 3 hits over 9 innings (allowing 2 runs and 3 BBs). The Mets would go 11 innings over the DH before getting their first hit with 2 outs in the 3rd.

Hopefully, somewhere out there exists more footage of this game. If you had to ask me which games (known to have parts exist) from the 1960's I would wish to have a full broadcast of, this is one of them.

A truly Happy Father's Day for Senator Bunning.

Clips provided by "Unhittable" DVD.


  1. How much of ths Bunning perfect game is on the Unhittable DVD?

  2. This footage was also used in the 1987 VHS production from MLB Hoem Video "Centennial: Over 100 Years of Philadelphia Phillies Baseball" (it was 104 years at that point) but there does not seem to be any footage from earlier than the 9th inning.

    Also, to me (and I could easily be wrong), this footage does not look like itw as taken from a kinescope but rather early black and white video. It is possible that a station manager decided to use a little bit of valuable early two-in quad video tape to preserve the end of this historic game once it became clear what was happening.

    I can imagine it be quicker also (though costlier) to start recording video than to set up kinescope filming in the middle of a game.

    Just something to consider.

  3. I bought the Unhittable DVD expecting to see the complete, unedited 9th inning and post game. Big disappointment. Is the complete 9th inning on the 1987 Phillies VHS tape, or is it highlights only. I'd love to see the complete version. I have a record called "Let's Go Mets", released after the 1964 season, and it has Lindsay Nelson's radio call, which is fantastic.

  4. Just highlights there as well, unfortunately. I'd like to see the complete inning (or even, impossible as it probably is, the whole game) too. It's too bad they didn't think to include it on the DVD... maybe the existing footage only picks up mid-inning and id even less complete than we thought?

  5. nugget, I'm terribly sorry for not seeing your post before. Yes, it is only a scattering of clips on the Unhittable DVD. The DVD is a good view but if you were looking for expanded content on this game, you'd be disappointed.

    As far as kinescope vs tape, I will say I lean more towards kinescope just because of the soft focus and lack of clarity the image has, as if it is recording a TV not fully in focus. Like wise, the corners of the image have the rounded shape the television set would have give it. The camera, from my understanding, would have shot the image as a perfect rectangle.

    I could be wrong, it's been known to happen before! :)

  6. Hi, HL. I took a look again not too long ago at the footage I have on the Phillies VHS (I don't have the Unhittable DVD). Interestingly, there is one shot at the start of the footage (mainly showing the scoreboard at the start of Bunning's ninth) that seems to be taken from a clear film source -- there is film speckling on the image. After that we move to clips from the broadcast that are absolutely free of speckling.

    They still look very much like video to me. For one thing, older video often did display those slightly cut off corners. Here is a good example:

    Also, looking carefully on this copy I seem to notice intermittently horizontal lines of color signal. They are faint but noticeable as one seems to intersect Bunning's red Phillies cap. That would indicate early video whose color signal had degraded to me. Also, in my experience kinescopes (unless heavily restored) almost always display a certain amount of film speckling.

    So perhaps what we have is assembled from a kinescope and a taped source? Or maybe the film was shot by a fan or for a news broadcast (for which stories were still filmed in many areas at this time)?

    I'm really enjoying your blog, by the way! Keep up the good work.

  7. Just a note, that a condensed version of the Bottom 9th aired one week after the event on ABC's Wide World Of Sports. In 1998, Classic Sports Network replayed this portion of the WWOS broadcast in a program devoted to Perfect Games. It began with Jim McKay in the ABC studio recapping past perfect games, and then showing "courtesy of WOR", the bottom 9th. We saw just the final pitches for outs to the first two Met batters, and then all pitches to the last batter Johnny Stephenson, but no postgame interview. Instead, after the final out it came back to an interview with Bunning by McKay in the ABC studio.

    The B/W videotape quality was quite pristine in the broadcast, again a testament to how perfectly preserved the ABC archive is for WWOS broadcasts.

  8. Thanks for the reply. I didn't know about the WWOS special. Someone must have this. I'm surprised it hasn't popped on in the trading circles. One can only hope someday. I think I've mentioned before than the 25th Anniversary Mets Video (1986) has all sort of goodies in there - a 1963 clip of a Carl Willey grand slam, a 1963 Duke Snider homer, a color clip of Duke Snider's 2000 hit. And many of these were in the opening sequences or closing credits. Yet, none of these has appeared anywhere since. I don't get it. Many of us would be interested in complete clips (no overdubbed music, extra titling, etc).

  9. I honestly believe that MLB is just beginning to delve into their resources. You have to remember that up until 3 years ago, they had no real use for footage. They didn't have to fill programming blocks as they filled themselves for 162 nights a year.

    Now that they can't just rely on live broadcasts and the networks that carry their games to sell the brand, I think they are becoming much more open to using the footage they have.

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