Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Throwing Kentucky clerk in jail part of judge’s hardball legacy

in Sports/Top Headlines by

Much of the country is talking about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. She was released on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning on the condition she not impede the further issuance of marriage licenses.

Judge Bunning is playing hardball with Davis, which should come as little surprise. As the son of Jim Bunning, the Hall of Fame pitcher and former U.S. Senator, hardball comes naturally.

Jim Bunning has the distinction of being one of 7 pitchers to pitch a perfect game along with a regular no-hitter. He is one of only 5 to throw a no-hitter in both the American and National League.

As a Senator, the elder Bunning was known to speak his mind clearly and forcefully. Ruffled or plucked feathers were strewn about.

Tampa Bay baseball fans should have kind thoughts about Jim Bunning. During his tenure he was a vocal proponent of stripping Major League Baseball’s exemption from the anti-trust laws granted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922.

In 1992, the National League stepped in to block the sale of the San Francisco Giants to a Tampa Bay group willing to pay $115. Giants’ owner Bob Lurie had no choice but to accept a local offer worth $15 million less. Tampa Bay had no recourse.

“It’s unfair,” Bunning said at the time to the New York Times, “to those cities that have to deal with the 28 owners not to have remedies you normally have through the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.”

Bunning and former Florida Congressman Mike Bilirakis were two of the loudest voices in Congress to strip the exemption. The Kentucky Senator even made an appearance in St. Petersburg to make the case for stripping the exemption. No one understood the frustration more than Tampa Bay baseball fans.

Perhaps Jim Bunning made a difference. If the anti-trust exemption was that important to baseball – and it is – the grand poohbahs of baseball may have thought “why not give Arizona and Tampa Bay a franchise and quiet down the politicians?”

A little more than two years after bellowing from Bunning, Bilirakis, Sen. Connie Mack and others, the Devil Rays were announced. To this day, the anti-trust exemption remains.

Bunning’s mantra of “the time has come to disregard the exemption,” is part of his legacy. That is probably not what he meant exactly, but we got the point.

After all, his son jailed the Kentucky clerk for disregarding a ruling of the Supreme Court. Judge Bunning just chooses his words a bit more carefully.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

Latest from Sports

Go to Top