Catfish Hunter Baseball Cards

Catfish Hunter (1946-1999) was an MLB pitcher from 1965 to 1979. He played for the Kansas City / Oakland Athletics from 1965 to 1974, and he finished his career with the New York Yankees from 1975 to 1979.

Over his career, Hunter had a 224-166 win-loss record, a 3.26 earned run average, and 2,012 strikeouts. He was an eight time All Star, a five time World Series champion, and in 1974 he was the MLB wins leader, the AL ERA leader, and the AL Cy Young Award winner.

In 1987 Hunter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on 76.27% of the vote on the third ballot. Additionally, Hunter was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame.

Born in Hertford, North Carolina, Hunter grew up in farm country. He was a great athlete from the start, and he played several sports. He attracted attention from MLB scouts while in high school, but after losing a toe in a hunting accident, his prospects looked dim.

Still, the Kansas City Athletics picked him up due to his potential, and he rehabbed in Indiana on the farm of the Athletics owner.

Named James Augustus Hunter at birth, he received the nickname Catfish when he was 19 as he began with the Athletics. The Athletics owner decided that Hunter needed a cool nickname, and the press came up with false stories to explain the origins of Catfish.

Hunter never threw a pitch in the minors, and he started in the majors in 1965 at 19. By 1966, he made his first All Star Game.

After the Athletics moved to Oakland in 1968, Hunter pitched a perfect game on May 8, 1968. It was the ninth perfect game in MLB history, and it was the first since 1922 in the AL regular season. He also had three RBIs in the 4-0 game. Hunter was 22.

Oakland won the World Series in 1972, 1973, and 1974 with the help of Hunter’s pitching. Over that stretch, Hunter won at least 20 games per season, and he went 4-0 in the World Series. In 1974, he was named the Pitcher of the Year by Sporting News, he won the AL Cy Young Award, he went 25-12, and he had a 2.49 ERA. While that Athletics dynasty was at the top, Hunter was at the top of his game.

The Athletics breached his contract in 1974 due to taxation issues, and Hunter was declared a free agent after arbitration. Free agency had just begun in 1972 after Flood v. Kuhn in the Supreme Court. Then, free agency did not become a wide and common option until the 1976 collective bargaining agreement with the players association. Free agency was not as common as it is today across every sport and every country.

After being declared a free agent, Hunter was understandably scared. He told his wife shortly after the declaration, “We don’t belong to anybody.”

Yet, the market immediately showed the worth of free agency to players. Hunter signed a five year deal with the New York Yankees worth $3,350,000. He was sought after by 23 of 24 teams in MLB, and chose New York because of the proximity to his hometown, the high offer, and the natural grass stadium.

Hunter became the highest paid pitcher in MLB history. The New York Times referred to him as the “first big-money free agent”, and that reputation persists.

He finished his fifth consecutive season with 20 or more wins, and he came in second for the AL Cy Young. He continued to impress as the Yankees won three consecutive pennants from 1976 to 1978.

However, Hunter had serious arm injuries in 1978, and he was also diagnosed with diabetes that year. His energy quickly draining, he retired the next year at 33.

Hunter returned to the farm. He grew corn, peanuts, cotton, and soybeans, while actively speaking for diabetes awareness as well.

20 years after retirement, Hunter was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He died soon after the diagnosis at the age of 53.

There are several great cards that represent Hunter’s career, and this article will cover the best.

1965 Topps Jim Hunter Rookie Card

There are 598 cards in this set of standard dimensions (2 ½” x 3 ½”). Hunter’s rookie card sits at #526. The rookie card of Steve Carlton is another major rookie card on this set.

Hunter is on a card titled “1965 Rookie Stars”, and appears alongside Lachemann, Johnny Odom, and Skip Lockwood.

For reference, PSA has over 240,000 cards registered from this set, and over 2,500 are Hunter copies.

For PSA Gem Mint 10 copies, prices of this rookie card surpass $10,000. The most recent sale as of writing was $16,800 in May of 2021.

Since 2013, prices for PSA Mint 9’s have jumped between $600 to near $2,000 and back. In March of 2021, a Mint copy sold for $1,900.

PSA 8’s are more affordable, and they have sold for a few hundred.

1966 Topps Catfish Hunter

Hunter sits at #36 in this 598 card set of standard size. A few of the keys of the day are Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, and Hank Aaron.

For reference, PSA has over 190,000 cards registered from this set, and over 1,000 copies are Hunter cards.

The most recent sale for a PSA Mint 9 is $2,250 in April of 2021. Prior to that, the next most recent sale was for $238.34 in 2019, and that was the common price since 2012. It may just be an outlier, but be on the lookout if you are collecting Catfish cards.

1967 Topps Catfish Hunter

Hunter sits at #369 in this set of 609 cards of standard size. Key rookie cards include Tom Seaver and Rod Carew.

For reference, PSA has 250,000 cards registered from this set, and over 800 cards are Hunter copies.

PSA Gem Mint 10 copies have sold for between $2,000 and $3,500 since 2016, and prices fall fast to $200-$300 for a PSA Mint 9 copy.

1968 Topps Jim Hunter

Hunter sits at #385 in this set of 598 cards of standard size. Nolan Ryan’s rookie card is the key to the set.

For reference, PSA has over 300,000 cards registered from this set, and over 700 cards are Hunter copies.

PSA Gem Mint 10 copies have sold for around $200 to $600 since 2005.

1976 Topps Jim Hunter

This is not the best or most sought after card of Hunter, but there needs to be one card covered of Hunter in a Yankees uniform.

This set has 660 cards of standard size, and Hunter sits at #100. A few keys include the final active card for Hank Aaron, as well as Nolan Ryan and Dennis Eckersley.

For reference, PSA has 153,000 cards registered from this set, and over 400 are Hunter cards.

While PSA Gem Mint 10 copies can hit $1,000, a PSA Mint 9 typically sells for under $100.


Every Topps card of Hunter from the 1960s and 1970s is a good card. Many times, the best cards are from earlier in the player’s career, and those are covered here.

Charlie Finley, the owner of the Oakland Athletics, often spoke highly of Hunter’s part in their 70s threepeat.

George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees, said of Hunter, ”You started our success. You were the first to teach us how to win. Other Yankees continued that leadership role, but you were the one who first showed us what it means to be a winner.”

When inducted into Cooperstown, a player is asked to choose which team will be on his plaque. Hunter’s plaque has no such designation.