- 2B, 3B, SS
- February 23, 1941
- 186 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-16-1963 with NYN
Hunt once said, "Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball." He retired with three major league records for HBP: most times in a career (243); in a season (50, 1971); and in a game (three, tied). For seven straight years he led the NL in HBP. He had other ways to get on, as two .300 seasons and good walk totals showed. He set Expo team records for fewest strikeouts in a season (19, 1973) and fewest times hitting into double plays (one, 1971). Though he played on the early, horrid Met teams (in '64 he was their first All-Star), he was heartbroken when he was traded to the Dodgers in November 1966 for Tommy Davis. After retiring, Hunt went into ranching outside St. Louis.
Hunt broke into the major leagues in 1963 as the Mets’ regular second baseman, batting .272 with 10home runs, which would be his career high, and 42 runs batted in, which would tie him with another. That year, he also finished runner-up to Pete Rose for the National League Rookie of the Year honors. In 1964he batted .303 and became the Mets’ first-ever starting All-Star representative, an honor made all the more special because the game was played in the Mets’ newly opened Shea Stadium. He was also an All-Star representative in 1966.
In November 1966 Hunt and Jim Hickman were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tommy Davis. Hunt, heartbroken over the deal, batted .263 in 1967. After the season he was traded again, this time to the San Francisco Giants in the same deal that sent Tom Haller to Los Angeles. The deal was the first between the two teams since they moved to the West Coast, and also the first since the one that would have sent Jackie Robinson to the Giants; he reportedly retired rather than report with his new team.
After three seasons in San Francisco Hunt was traded to the Montreal Expos. In nearly four seasons in Montreal he batted .277, including a career high .309 in 1973. Late in the 1974 season he was waived to his hometown St. Louis Cardinals, with whom he closed out his career after playing 12 games. The Cardinals brought Hunt to spring training in 1975, but released him in March. He retired forthwith.
In his 12-year career Hunt batted .273 with 39 home runs and 370 RBIs in 1483 games played. He was also one of the most difficult batters to strike out, fanning 382 times in 5235 at-bats, or once in every 13.70 at-bats. In 1973 he set an Expos record by only striking out 19 times in 401 at-bats, the fewest ever in franchise history by a player who had at least 400 at-bats on the season.
The Hit by Pitch
Hunt, whose motto was, “Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball,” had been hit by pitches more often than anyone during his playing days. He led the National League in getting hit by pitches in each of his final seven Major League seasons; in all but his final season (1974), he was the Major League HBP leader, his 16 “plunks” outdone only by Bobby Grich’s 20. He was hit by 25 pitches in 1968, 25 in 1969, 26 in 1970, 50 in 1971, 26 in 1972 and 24 in1973.
Hunt said in a July 2000 interview with Baseball Digest that he really began to get hit by pitches after being traded to San Francisco. "But," Hunt asked, "why would you hit me to face Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Jim Ray Hart?"
On September 29, 1971, against the Chicago Cubs at Jarry Park, Hunt was hit by a Milt Pappas pitch to give him 50 on the season, obliterating the post-1900 record of 31 by Steve Evans, although Hughie Jennings still holds the all-time record for 51 HPBs in 1896. Pappas argued to home plate umpire Ken Burkhart that the pitch was directly over the plate, that Hunt got hit by the ball without even trying to get out of the way. Earlier in the year, Pappas had also contributed #27 in the Hunt collection, prompting Cub manager Leo Durocher to cry foul after home plate umpire Augie Donatelli awarded Hunt first base on that pitch. Cincinnati Reds manager Sparky Anderson had a similar complaint after Hunt was hit by a Jim McGlothlin pitch on August 7 of that year; the HBP was Hunt’s 32nd of the season, which broke the National League record set by Steve Evans of the 1910 St. Louis Cardinals.
On April 29, 1969, Hunt tied a Major League record with three HBPs in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. One of those "plunks" was against former Met teammate Jack Fisher.
Hunt always insisted that he never deliberately got hit by a pitch, that he always stood straight up at the plate and simply leaned into the pitch.
Upon his retirement, his 243 HBPs were a career record. Don Baylor would break that record in 1987 and retire with 267 HBPs. Craig Biggio would break Baylor’s career record in 2005 and retire at the end of the 2007 season with 285 HBPs.