Willard Mitchell Hunter ’54

The extraordinary leg muscles that propelled Will on the gridiron and track also powered his performance as a hurler who eventually pitched major league ball for the N.Y. Mets.
Will took second in the 440 at the Winter Track Nationals. And once, when he was chased by a fierce dog while anchoring the mile relay, Will hit the afterburners in a move reminiscent of his running back exploits and gave Peddie a come-from-behind victory. (There was also talk about giving the dog a letter).

But baseball was Will’s first love and his forte. His fastball was actually scary to most high school batters. He would bring it a little bit from third base against right-handed hitters, and it was all they could do to stay in the batter’s box. The “ace fireballer” notched 11 strike-outs vs. Pingry, 12 against Pennington, 14 vs. Hill, 17 against Penn Charter, and struck out all eight batters in 2 and ⅔ innings of relief vs. Rutger Prep. For good measure, he batted close to .700 that year and stole home against Lawrenceville.

Will graduated from Peddie with an acceptance to Wake Forest and a professional baseball contract offer. After a semester in college, he signed the contract and headed for spring training, starting in Class B ball but quickly jumping to Triple A. He played stints in Montreal and Omaha, was called up by the L.A. Dodgers, then joined the N.Y. Mets for two years to demonstrate the effectiveness of his fastball in the majors.

Classmate Jerry Levine remembers attending a 1964 Mets-Cubs doubleheader in which his old football teammate came in as a reliever late in the first game and wound up with the win. Then, in the nightcap of the same twin bill, he did it again! No pitcher in  major league history has ever won a pair more efficiently or in faster succession.

After a shoulder operation made it difficult for Will to continue doing the thing he loved best, he switched fields and worked as a computer specialist until his recent retirement in Omaha, where he played softball and managed a semipro softball team until age 50.