Two years before George Steinbrenner signed Reggie Jackson to play right field and sell tickets, The Boss made a significant signing when he brought Jim (Catfish) Hunter from Oakland to The Bronx through a five-year contract worth $ 3.75 million on New Year’s Eve.
Hunter had become a free agent due to his technicality in dealing with his owner Charlie Finley.
In Hunter’s first year with the Yankees, they failed to reach the postseason, though it was hardly Hunter’s fault. The 29-year-old right-hander led the majors with 23 wins, 30 complete games, 328 innings and posted a 2.58 ERA in 39 starts.
Hunter finished a distant second to Jackson in a New York Post sports department poll of the best free-agent signings in New York sports, but ahead of Mike Mussina and CC Sabathia.
“You started our success,” wrote Matt Kelly, a former communications specialist at the Hall of Fame of what Steinbrenner told Hunter upon his induction to the Hall of Fame in 1987. “You were the first to teach us how to win.”
Hunter never duplicated the 1975 season and retired following the 1979 season, when he went 2-9 with a 5.31 ERA in 19 starts. In five seasons with the Yankees, Hunter went 63-53 with a 3.58 ERA in 137 games (136 starts).
He died in 1999 due to ALS at the age of 53.