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Paradox Lost
JOE POSNANSKI
March 15, 2010
The bizarre Jim Bunning as you never knew him: an unlikely power broker behind the birth of the all-powerful baseball players' union
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March 15, 2010

Paradox Lost

The bizarre Jim Bunning as you never knew him: an unlikely power broker behind the birth of the all-powerful baseball players' union

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Well, Bunning is interesting. He's 78, and he's retiring from the Senate—he is basically being forced out by his own party. In 2006 TIME magazine called him one of the five worst senators; his stance is often extreme (for instance, he came out in favor of fencing off the border with Mexico); and he has made numerous bizarrely provocative public statements, like the time in '04 when he said his senatorial opponent, Daniel Mongiardo, looked like one of Saddam Hussein's sons.

But it's also true that Bunning is one of the few men in American history to reach such great heights in two disparate fields. Bunning, the ballplayer, was private and blunt and shrewd and difficult—the last guy anyone would expect to go into politics. Bunning, the politician, has served six terms in the House and two terms in the Senate.

"This Jim Bunning—the one who conducted a one-man filibuster against unemployment benefits—no, that's not the Jim Bunning I knew," Miller says. "My wife died in October. And a few days after that I got a call. On my answering machine I heard, 'This is Jim Bunning.' He was very kind. Very gentle."

Marvin Miller coughed a little. "That," he said, "was the Jim Bunning I knew."

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