Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wally Bunker (#585)

This is my oldest Wally Bunker card, but not my first. Bunker is one of the four Orioles’ cards (along with Brooks Robinson, manager Hank Bauer, and an O’s Rookies card featuring Mark Belanger) in the high-numbered 7th series which was not sold in my area in 1967. I got his ’68 card (Orioles) and ’69 card (Royals) in those years, but it was not until the 1980s that I collected all but 5 of the '67 high-numbers.

The O’s #3 starter in 1966, Wally pitched a complete-game shutout in the ’66 World Series, but wasn’t shown on the post season cards in the 1967 set either. (Paul Blair was featured on the game #3 card.)

Bunker was one of the mid-1960s' pitching phenoms for the Orioles (along with Dave McNally and Jim Palmer). He was signed by the Orioles in 1963, and after going 10-1 with 95 strikeouts in 99 innings in class A ball, he made his major-league debut on Sept 29th.

Wally made the Orioles squad for good in the 1964 pre-season, and was the team’s ace as a rookie – winning 19 games and finishing 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting (to the Twins’ Tony Oliva).

He followed up his rookie season with two 10-win seasons, and a complete-game shutout of the Dodgers in game #3 in the World Series (sandwiched between Palmer’s complete-game shutout in game #2 and McNally’s complete-game shutout in game #4).

Wally struggled for the next 2 seasons, as sore arms swept through the O’s starting rotation (Bunker, Palmer, McNally). Bunker only won 5 games combined in 67-68, and spent much of ’67 in the bullpen, and part of ’68 in triple-A. As such, he was left unprotected for the expansion draft following 1968, and was selected (along with Orioles’ teammate Moe Drabowsky) by the upstart Kansas City Royals.

Bunker was the Royals’ first-ever opening-day starter in 1969, and led the staff with 31 starts, 222 innings, and 12 wins.

Arm troubles cropped up again, leaving him with a 2-11 record in 1970, and led to his release following his final game on 5/26/1971. He played for the Royals’ AAA team for the remainder of 1971 and part of 1972 before retiring.

In recent years, Bunker has been a writer and illustrator of childrens’ books.

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