ROY HALLADAY scowled his way through his perfect game on Memorial Day weekend. Jim Bunning chattered his way through his perfect game on Father's Day, 46 years ago. Different courses for different horses.
Halladay's teammates ducked and dodged, goaded by superstition, fearful of jinxing him. Bunning pursued his teammates, snatching at sleeves, yelping encouragement into startled faces.
"I'd pitched a no-hitter [for Detroit in 1958]," Bunning recalled yesterday, taking time out from a family picnic. "I'd done it that way, the silent way.
"And then, 3 weeks before the perfect game I was going for another one. Against Houston, at Connie Mack Stadium. Silence. Blew it. So when this one came up, I said, 'The heck with that . . . I'm gonna talk,' and that's what I did."
Bunning isn't running for re-election as a congressman from Kentucky. Scratch the possibility he could surface as baseball's next commissioner.
"I don't want to have anything to do with baseball," Bunning sneered, "and baseball doesn't want to have anything to do with me."
Which doesn't mean he has distanced himself from the game.
"I was watching the Reds game Saturday night," he said, "and they put the last inning of Halladay's game up on the Jumbotron.
"And then, as soon as it ended, I got a call from a dear college friend to tell me about it. So I was aware of it while it was happening, and when it was over."
His impressions of the second perfect game in Phillies history? "He had a helluva lot harder time than I did," Bunning said.
Bunning's perfecto came against the Mets at Shea Stadium. He recalls only two tough plays behind him.
"Tony Taylor made one, diving for a ball," he said of the second baseman, "and Dick Allen made a tough play, going into the hole from third base."
So, after 26 up and 26 down, Bunning faced John Stephenson. I thought I remembered the manager, Gene Mauch, scurrying out to the mound. I thought I remembered thinking he was intruding on Bunning's stage.
"Didn't happen," Bunning barked. "I'll tell you when it did happen. First game I won in the National League. Stephenson came up as a pinch-hitter and Mauch came out and told me, 'This guy can't spell c-u-r-v-e.'
"I remembered hitters. I remembered that when I faced him this time. Threw him nothing but curveballs."
That was the year of the blue snow, 1964. It all ended badly, the Phillies squandering a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 to play, Mauch using Bunning and Chris Short on skimpy rest.
Bunning thinks the future is a lot brighter for Halladay. "I think he's the best pitcher in baseball," he said. "Look at what he's already done in the American League. He got traded to the National League a little later than I did.
"I think he will give the Phillies 4 or 5 more good years. And I think he will be the difference-maker, getting the Phillies to the World Series for the third year in a row, and them winning another title."
Bunning was a no-nonsense professional. Halladay is so solemn he makes Bunning look like a schoolboy on Easter break. What happened to having fun?
"You keep within yourself," Bunning lectured. "Do it that way, win that way, there's nothing wrong with that. Fun? Fun can come afterwards."