Ken Hunt – Strongest Arm in the Majors?

Left unprotected by the Yankees Hunt found himself available for the expansion draft and, whilst working for a Minnesota radio station as a newsreader, he read that he had been selected by the Angels for the 1961 season.

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

Cited by writer Jeff Mays as a possible contender for being the first victim of the ‘Angels curse’ due to a career cut short well before his prime, Ken Hunt’s name belongs in the record books of Halos history as the first Angels player to hit a double, versus Boston Red Sox, in the 1961 inaugural season. A tall, powerful right handed batter and outfielder, the native of Grand Forks, North Dakota Hunt began his baseball career with the New York Yankees, where he roomed with his childhood friend, Roger Maris, in 1960. Hunt, like Maris, was an accomplished all round athlete and he signed for the the Yankees, in 1952. He performed well in their farm system until 1955, when army service somewhat interrupted his excellent progress.

Never one to miss out on his sporting opportunities Hunt remained active in baseball during his army service, and was recognised for his talent when named as one of the Fifth Army All Star team. Rejoining the Yankees, Hunt was called up to spring training in 1957 and again in 1959 but was unable to break though to the seniors, who bristled with immense talent such as Mickey Mantle. During this period Hunt also spent time playing winter baseball overseas, in Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Colombia. On September the 10th 1959 he finally made his big league debut for the Yankees, and in 1960 spring training he earned his spot on the Yankees Major League roster, but again found himself surplus by May. In September he was again called up by the Yankees, ending the season hitting .273 from 25 games.

Never one to miss out on his sporting opportunities Hunt remained active in baseball during his army service, and was recognised for his talent when named as one of the Fifth Army All Star team.

Left unprotected by the Yankees Hunt found himself available for the expansion draft and, whilst working for a Minnesota radio station as a newsreader, he read that he had been selected by the Angels for the 1961 season. Tommy Lasorda, employed at the time as a scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers said the Angels would “be surprised at his power once he really gets going.” Indeed Halos General manager, Fred Haney, was delighted with his new man, he said; “He can do everything. He’s fast, covers a lot of ground in center field, has a good arm, and hits with power” and it was reported by some that Hunt had the strongest throwing arm of all outfielders in the majors, at that time. Selected for the roster for the Angel’s first ever Major League game, versus the Baltimore Orioles, Hunt finally found himself as a regular starter and in 149 games that season he hit .255, smashing 25 home runs and had 84 runs batted in.

That 1961 season saw Hunt hit 29 doubles and he scored 70 runs, and his 25 home runs by a rookie was an Angels record for decades, until it was broken by Tim Salmon in 1993. Hunt also hit the Halos first ever triple, versus his old employers the Yankees, in that 1961 season. Overall, despite being prone to too many errors in the outfield, Hunt’s rookie Angels season was a huge success. In a spring exhibition game in preparation for the 1962 season disaster struck for Hunt when he tore muscles in his right shoulder and developed an aneurysm in his shoulder that required surgery. Despite attempts at a comeback with the Angels and later with the Washington Senators, his career seemed over before it’s peak, when he admitted defeat and decided to spend the 1965 season away from baseball.

Upon returning to Los Angeles to live, Hunt signed up to the Screen Actor’s Guild and appeared in an episode of The Munsters alongside his stepson, Butch Patrick, who played the Eddie Munster in the family favourite television show. Despite last appearing for the Senators in the Major League way back in October of 1964, he was then traded to the Chicago Cubs for the 1966 season, but ultimately never played for the Cubs, before retiring from baseball for good that season. In June 1997 Hunt settled down to watch the Angels on television, with a particular interest in checking on the progress of fellow North Dakotan outfielder, Darin Erstad. In the comfort of his home, watching his Angels play ball Hunt sadly passed away from heart failure, aged just 62 years old.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

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