On mound or mountain, Bunker resorts to location


May 26, 1994|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Sun Staff Writer

Former pitcher Wally Bunker has known three secrets of success in baseball and beyond: location, location, location.

Lately, for example, he has been living in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, a relentlessly scenic city of about 25,000 people surrounded by lakes, mountains and national forest in the state's northern panhandle. This suits Bunker, who was born in and grew up in two other cities known for good photo opportunities: Seattle and San Francisco, respectively.

Since he left baseball in 1971, Bunker and his wife, Kathy, have made much of location, investing in real estate in out-of-the-way or depressed places and waiting as the tide turned.

They bought some Seattle property in the mid-1970s before the city became chic. In 1980, they moved about an hour north to the town of Langley on Whidby Island, "a place where the hippies used to sleep." The Bunkers ran a refrigerator magnet business there, and watched as the 1980s real estate boom hit the island and a town of boarded-up buildings "turned into a miniature Carmel." The value of the Bunker home multiplied eight times in 10 years.

But Bunker the major-leaguer always did have an eye for location. No overpowering stuff on the mound, "nothing really outstanding. . . . I was always kind of a control pitcher,kept the ball down well."

Well enough to go 19-5 with a 2.69 ERA in 1964, his first full season with the Orioles. In his first start that year, May 5, Bunker threw a one-hitter to beat the Washington Senators and later in the season one-hit the Kansas City Athletics. He was named Rookie of the Year for his work in what proved to be his best season, but Bunker says his stuff was not extraordinary.

"You'd win games 4-3. I could just as well have lost 4-3," Bunker says. He figures he pitched just as well in 1969 when he went 12-11 for the Kansas City Royals.

He pitched in six seasons for the Orioles, nine overall, retired at 26, and apparently has spent little time looking back.

"I don't miss it," he says, adding that he hasn't followed the game closely or been to more than five major-league games since he retired. "I didn't breathe or live baseball. I enjoyed it."

He has lunch regularly with former Orioles teammate Don Larsen, who also lives in Coeur d'Alene. Larsen sometimes takes Bunker along on his fishing trips, although Bunker doesn't much care for fishing or hunting. He spends his time tending to the ski resort property he and his wife own in Kellogg, Idaho, and planning a wholesale gift business. And, of course, scouting locations.

"I'm looking for another Langley," he says.

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