Willard Hunter: 1960's Mets Pitcher Who Once Won Both Ends of a Double Header (1962 - 1964)

 Willard Mitchell Hunter was born March 8th, 1935, in Newark New Jersey. Hunter attended high school at a New Jersey Prep School & Glen Falls, New York where he was a star pitcher.

The six foot-two left-handed pitcher later attended Wake Forest University & getting signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. Hunter had control issues early on & spent seven years in the minor leagues.

MLB Debut: On April 16th, Scott was given a start making his only Dodger appearance. It was a nightmare outing, as he gave up ten runs in San Francisco, including a three run HR to Willie Mays taking the loss.

Mets Career: Less than a month later, the Dodgers sent Hunter to the New York Mets to complete the Charlie Neal deal made in 1961.

Hunter found a spot right away on the Mets bad pitching staff. On June 1st he debuted at the Polo Grounds in front of 43,742 fans, many of them former NY Giants fans, facing those Giants. He gave up a grand slam HR to Jim Davenport, five runs in all in the 9-6 loss. Willie Mays & Willie McCovey also homered in that game.

The Giants were certainly his nemesis, in five games against them he gave up an incredible 25 runs, 17 extra base hits, 5 HRs & he issued 14 walks, as they batted .410 against Hunter.

Two days later on June 3rd, he amazingly got by pitching a scoreless inning against the Giants.

First Career Victory: On June 9th, in a rare Mets offensive outburst that year, they put up 11 runs at Wrigley Field, as Hunter pitched six innings giving up three runs, earning his first career win. It was his only win of the year.

Over the next month from June 16th to July15th made five starts & lost all five decisions. In six games in that time, he allowed 23 earned runs in 27.2 innings including eight HRs.

Hunter ended the season at 1-6 with a 6.65 ERA. He gave up 10 HRs & 48 earned runs in 65 innings pitched. He struck out 41 & walked 38 in28 appearances, making six starts.

Quotes- Willard Hunter: "This is the greatest team to work with. The guys are terrific, the pitching coaches are more helpful than any I've encountered & that Casey! Well let me just say everything you've read about his way of talking & working with the players is true. Plus, he's the greatest & the fellows love him. They'd do anything for him anytime, I know".

1963: Hunter spent the year at AAA Buffalo going 10-5. 

1964: In June of 1964 he was back with the big-league club. On July 1st he earned a save in a 8-6 win at Houston & on July 22nd finished off a 4-3 win at Cincinnati earning the win. 

Victories In Both Ends of a Double Header: His biggest day of glory came on an August 23rd Sunday double header with the Cubs at Shea Stadium. 

In the first game, Hunter came in the game in the
top of the 10th inning with two on & one out in a 1-1 tie. He got Leo Burke to pop up & Hall of Famer Billy Williams to ground out to Ron Hunt at second. In the bottom of the inning 19-year-old Ed Kranepool hit a walk off single to win the game giving Hunter the win.

In the night cap, Casey Stengle brought Hunter in to pitch in the top of the 9th in a 4-4 tie. He retired the side in order. In the bottom of the 9th, Bobby Klaus singled advanced & scored on Charlie Smith's walk off base hit. The Shea fans went wild with the rare wins in such dramatic style.

Trivia: Hunter was the second Mets pitcher to earn wins in both ends of a double header as Craig Anderson had done it in 1962.

After Willard's two victories in that doubleheader, he would not win another game. He finished the season at 3-3 with a 4.41 ERA. Hunter did lead the team with five saves & finishing up 26 games. He struck out 22 & walked 9 in 49 innings in 41 appearances, all in relief. 

That year, Casey Stengle kept him far away from the Giants as he only pitched one inning against them, without giving up any runs. 

In the off season he had shoulder surgery & lost his effectiveness. In 1965 he pitched in 26 games at AAA Buffalo finishing up his baseball career. 

Family: Willard was married to his long-time wife Delores, together they had children & many grandchildren.

Passing: In February of 2021, Hunter passed away in Omaha, Nebraska at the age of 87.


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