SOUTHGATE, Ky. (WKYT) - Former professional baseball player-turned-U.S. Senator from Kentucky Jim Bunning has died at the age of 85.
Bunning's son, U.S. District Judge David Bunning tweeted that "Heaven got its No 1 starter today."
Bunning was 85 years old. He served as a U.S. Senator from 1999 to 2011.
The Kentucky Republican also served 12 years in the U.S. House. He was a staunchly conservative voice in the Senate and a fierce protector of state interests such as tobacco, coal and military bases. He did not seek re-election in 2010. Bunning gave his farewell speech to the Senate on December 9, 2010, and was succeeded by current Senator Rand Paul on January 3, 2011.
The only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to serve in Congress, Bunning was the second pitcher to record 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in the American and National Leagues.
Prior to his political career, he pitched for several Major League Baseball teams from 1955 to 1971, and is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Bunning won 224 games in a 17-year major-league career and pitched the first perfect game in modern National League history.
He became the first pitcher after 1900 to throw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues.
He belonged to a rare group of major league pitchers to throw a perfect game in the modern era.
Tributes from politicians came pouring in Saturday.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin released a statement on Twitter. "Kentucky lost a true gem today. Sen. Jim Bunning, Baseball Hall of Famer-turned public servant, was a champion of conservatism and the embodiment of Kentucky's tenacious spirit. Bunning's unique sense of humor and outlook on life often drew attention, but he was never one to back down. He understood that 'difficult times require difficult decisions,' a philosophy that guided him well as he served our state and country. His absence will be felt in the years to come, but we are thankful for what he left behind: an incredible legacy of hard work, determination, and selflessness."
Senator Mitch McConnell also released a statement Saturday. "Senator Jim Bunning led a long and storied life. From his days in the major leagues to his years as my colleague in the Senate -- and the many points in between, from the City Council to the House of Representatives -- Jim rarely shied away from a new adventure," McConnell wrote. "This Hall of Famer will long be remembered for many things, including a perfect game, a larger-than-life personality, a passion for Kentucky, and a loving family. Elaine and I offer our sincere condolences to Mary and the entire Bunning family."
Funeral arrangements are pending at Dobbling, Muehlenkamp-Erschell Funeral Homes in Northern Kentucky.