Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Letter to Sen. Bunning, Hall of Famer

Hey, there, Jimbo, how's things?  It's your old buddy, Chilly Stantz here.  Remember me? Utility infielder for the Richmond, Indiana, Tigers back before you became rich and famous and I went back to pumping gas in Okemah, OK.

You was makin' maybe $150 a month, big money for class D back then, because you was a startin' pitcher.  Me?  I got the minor league minimum -- 75 lousy bucks -- because I was just a reserve infielder and occasional pinch-runner.  You and a coupla other "prospects" -- that's what they called you back then, "prospects," cuz the scouts for the Big Club thought there was a "prospect" that you could make the big leagues -- you "prospects" had an attytood.  Specially you, Jimbo.

There you'd be, on that rattly old bus, in the best seats, right behind The Skipper, and the rest of us, the non-prospects, we were just dirt.  Remember, Jimbo?  You didn't even know the first baseman's name, that quiet, bow-legged Pennsylvania Dutch boy  from Reading, PA.  "Hey you," you'd say, and ast him to fetch you a Coke, and you'd flip him two bits, and say, git one for yesself and keep the change, which was all of a nickel.

You moved on up the minor league ladder.  I got released and went back to pumpin' gas. I had a bunch of jobs after that, and picked up a few extra dollars playin' semi-pro on the sandlots around Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle till I got too old.  Only thing I ever had was good wheels and when I blew out a knee, nobody wanted me.

And y'all finally made the big show, with Dee-troit, and you pitched a perfect game one time, and you struck out three men in one inning on nine pitches -- now that there was really somethin'.  An' you made the Hall of Fame, by gum, and gotcherself elected to Congress and all.  You are one big deal.

So I gotta ask you, Jimbo, why you doin' this?  Why you cuttin' off the unemployment checks and the Medicare payments?  Why you doin' that, Jim?  We ain't done nuthin' to you, us poor folks out here in what they useta call th' Dust Bowl.

My boy, he got laid off last year and when the unemployment ran out, he had to move in with me.  I got a little old shack on a patch of ground outside of Arapaho, livin' on the Social Security.  It's tough feedin' two people on the Social Security.  And I got me a medical condition -- remember when "medical condition" jist meant a bad case of th' R.A.? Anyway the doc says he can't afford to treat me no more cuz they cut back the Medicare payments.

Why ya doin' this Jim?  Why?

Yer ol' minor league teammate, Chilly.

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James Paul David Bunning made $96,513,000 playing major league baseball between 1955 and 1971.  That does not include money from endorsements, personal appearances, baseball cards or memorabilia. 

* * *

From the Lexington Herald-Leader, Dec. 18, 2008: The non-profit Jim Bunning Foundation, which collects the money the former pitcher gets from autographing baseball memorabilia, has taken in more than $504,000, Senate and tax records show. Of that, Bunning has earned $180,000 in salary for working a reported one hour a week. By contrast, the foundation has given $136,435, or about one-fourth of its income, to churches and charitable groups around Northern Kentucky. The largest sums went to local Catholic churches Bunning has attended. Records show that Bunning is the foundation's sole employee and the only person to draw a paycheck from it.

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