Cut Catfish Hunter and he bleeds. Steal his insulin and his diabetes runs wild. Hide his tobacco and he bellows. But don't pinch him, please.
Maurice Cowen (Yankee team physician put Hunter to sleep June 26 and says he hasn't awakened yet. If it is all a dream, the Hertford, N.C., farmer is enjoying the euphoric state so much.
His shoulder sound from Dr. Cowen's magic manipulative fingures. Hunter beat the Tornoto Blue Jays last night. 5-1, for his 10th win in 12 decisions since coming off the disabled list as the Yankees hung onto their one-game division lead over Boston. Each contender has four games to play.
"The way I felt in June," said Hunter, "I thought by now I'd be back on the farm picking peanuts."
Hunter, running his season record to 12-5, got typical Yankee September support with an early three-run lead and huge home runs by Graig Nettles, his 27th and 90th RBI, and Reggie Jackson, his 25th homer (338 for 32nd place on the all-time list) and 93rd RBI.
Jackson his 28 RBI in the last 27 Yankee games. Last season he drove in 50 runs in the last 49 games as the Yankees won the American League East.His teammates call him Mr. September.
"September doesn't measure your ability as a player," said Jackson. "It measures you ability as a man. Some people succeed now because it is a question of character."
While Jackson's ego is sometimes a problem under the Jankee tent, his bat is almost never a problem.
"I'm never concerned about big games, about pennant races in September," said Jackson, who has been in 10 of them. "I know God will take care of me."
That's just the way Hunter feels now about Dr. Vowen. He saved the pitcher's arm and he may have saved the Yankee season.
"I'm just jappy I can contribute," said Hunter.
On July 19 he came back from the disabled list. On July 19 the Yankees were 14 games out of first place. This morning they stand one up with four to play.
"I'll take my chances wiht a lead like this anytime," said Manager Bob Lemon.
Hunter's comeback has not only been incredible, it has been warmly welcomed by his teammates. He is probably the best liked and most universally respected of the Yankees and his $3.75 million contract never caused a whisper of resentment.
"It's just comforting to play behind him," said Jackson. "He's a true professional.He knows what he is doing out there and this is the time of year to lean on people like that."
The Yankees scored a quick three runs in the second inning on singles by Nettles and Chris Chambliss, an error by third baseman Roy Howell, a sacrifice fly, a walk and Mickey Rivers' single.
Howell hit a fourth inning homer for the Toronto run off Hunter and the 32-year-old right-hander was never in trouble the rest of the night.