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On This Day In History | 1974

December 31, 2012
Catfish (Walter Iooss Jr.)

Catfish (Walter Iooss Jr.)

On this day 38 years ago the Yankees signed free agent Catfish Hunter for a 5-year $3.75 million contract, making him the highest paid pitcher in baseball.  It was a deal the Yanks never regretted.  “Catfish Hunter was the cornerstone of the Yankees’ success over the last quarter century,” George Steinbrenner once said. “We were not winning before Catfish arrived.  He exemplified class and dignity and he taught us how to win.”

Catfish came to the Bronx during a time of drought in New York.  The Yanks had not been to the Fall Classic since 1964, but Hunter made them better almost overnight.  Despite starting the year 0-3, he went on to lead the league with 23 victories, his 5th straight season with at least 21 wins.  He then led the Yanks back to the pennant in 1976 with 17 wins.  Hunter’s bronze plaque in Cooperstown reads “The bigger the game, the better he pitched” and he showed that by winning the Game 6 clincher of the 1978 World Series, despite being plagued all season with injuries and a diabetes diagnosis.

He will always be fondly remembered in New York as a gutsy hurler who played an instrumental role in leading the Bombers out of a dark decade of baseball.

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