Remington: Jim Bunning’s brethren: Baseball men who went into politics

From Alex Remington at The Hardball Times on July 6, 2017:

An old baseball player is a young man. Even the lengthiest careers leave a man with half his life still ahead of him. Bartolo Colon just celebrated his 44th birthday in May, but a month later, he found himself designated for assignment after posting an 8.14 ERA in 13 starts for the Braves. It’s unlikely that he will spend his 45th in a major league uniform. How will he spend his 50s, 60s, and 70s?

He’ll have a few options, even if he decides not to stick in baseball as a coach, manager, scout, or executive. (The nearly ageless Julio Franco continued playing baseball in Japan well into his 50s.) For example, if he’s an entrepreneur, he might follow Al Spalding‘s example. Spalding was a truly remarkable player — he won 40 or more games and pitched 496 or more innings in four straight seasons, and retired in 1878 with a career ERA+ of 132 and OPS+ of 116. He was still only 26, and he transitioned into management and eventually team ownership, as well as building the sporting-goods empire that still bears his name.

Some players went much further afield. Moe Berg was a light-hitting backup catcher, but after his career ended, he went into the OSS, which later became the CIA. His career was later memorialized in a book called The Catcher Was a Spy. (There’s a film in development.) Meanwhile, Maurice Lerner was a prospect who never quite made it to the Show, but after his baseball career ended, he began a long career as a mob hit man.

But if Bartolo is anything like Jim Bunning, he could go into politics, following the example of the tall right-hander who passed away on May 26 after 224 wins, 3,760.1 innings, and 23 years in the House and Senate as a representative and later senator from Kentucky.

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Originally published: July 7, 2017. Last Updated: July 7, 2017.