Bullinger Brothers Are In A Rare Class

Brothers Jim and Kirk Bullinger grew up in the New Orleans area playing baseball at multiple levels and wound up realizing every boy’s dream of one day playing professional sports. Since there have been approximately 18,000 Major League players in its 142 year history, the odds of a boy making the Major Leagues are pretty high. When brothers make it, the odds are even higher. In fact, it turns out the Bullingers are two of approximately 800 players who had brothers that also played in the Major Leagues during those 142 years. Additionally, by my count, they are among only 77 New Orleans area high school players who reached the Majors.

Both of the Bullingers had long professional baseball careers. While they got a chance to play in Major League All-Star or World Series games, they each had their moments of fame in the big leagues and were ultimately inducted into the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. Below are brief recaps of their careers.

If you have further interest in additional New Orleans area high school players who went on to play college, were drafted, or played professionally, check out my latest compilation of over 1,000 players in a document at http://thetenthinning.com/articles.html. The players’ hometown, high school team, college team, pro draft details, minor league years, and major league years are identified, along with other biographical notes. You might find a relative or former classmate in the list.

Jim Bullinger
Jim graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, LA, where he was an All-District player in 1982 and 1983. He attended the University of New Orleans for three seasons, where he played shortstop for Coach Ron Maestri. As a freshman, he was a member of the Privateers team that went to the College World Series in 1984.

Jim was drafted in the 9th round of the 1986 Major League Draft by the Chicago Cubs.

He spent his first four minor league seasons as a shortstop, but after struggling offensively, he converted to pitching in the 1989 fall Arizona Instructional League. In 1990, he started 23 games between the Single-A and Double-A levels, posting a 10-10 won-lost record. In 1991, he was 12-13, including starts in Triple-A.

After starting the 1992 season in Triple-A with 14 saves, Jim earned a promotion to the Cubs. His first Major League season was full of memorable highlights. He made his major league debut on May 27. In just his third week in the Majors, he was named the National League Player of the Week for June8-14, when he recorded his first four saves in five outings. He hit a home run in his first major league at-bat on June 8, only the third Cub to accomplish this feat, and the tenth pitcher in Major League history. On August 30 at Wrigley Field, he pitched a one-hit complete game against the San Francisco Giants in just his third major league game as a starting pitcher. He allowed a solo home run to Kirt Manwaring in the top of the 8th inning.

Jim spent most of the 1993 season back at Triple-A Iowa. As a reliever, helped them win the American Association title and was named the MVP of the championship series. Over the next three seasons with the Cubs he split his time between starting and relief roles. In 24 games started in 1995, he won a career-high 12 games.

Jim was granted free agency by the Cubs after the 1996 season; he then played the 1997 season with Montreal Expos and had a short stint with the Seattle Mariners in 1998, his last in the Majors. He continued to play professionally until 2005, with most of his seasons in independent baseball leagues.

During his seven-year Major League career, Jim posted a 34-41 record, 11 saves, and 5.06 ERA in 186 games. All total, he played in 17 professional seasons. He was inducted into the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Kirk Bullinger
Kirk graduated in 1987 from Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, LA. As the starting shortstop in his senior season, he helped Rummel win the Class 4A state championship. Kirk started his college career at the University of New Orleans in 1988. He lettered there in 1989, but then transferred to Southeastern Louisiana University. In 1992, he was 10-4 with a 3.18 ERA for the Lions. He was named the MVP of the Trans America Athletic Conference post-season tournament and gained a victory in the NCAA West Regionals.

Kirk was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 32nd round of the 1992 Major League Draft. His first three seasons in the Cardinals’ organization were characterized by low ERA and WHIP as a relief pitcher.

On April 5, 1995, he was one of three young Cardinals pitchers sent to the Montreal Expos as part of a trade that sent veteran pitcher Ken Hill to St. Louis.

Kirk made his major league debut with the Montreal Expos on August 30, 1998, when he recorded the first of his only two major league wins. On September 26, he surrendered home run No. 68 to slugger Mark McGwire, when McGwire went on his historic run to break Roger Maris’ home run record with 70.

Kirk had short major league stints with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies before latching on with the Houston Astros organization as a free agent in December 2001. He returned to his New Orleans roots and pitched for the New Orleans Zephyrs, Triple-A affiliate of the Astros, from 2002 to 2004, which included seasons with 20 and 14 saves. Upon the 20th anniversary of the Zephyrs, Kirk was named one of the top 20 players in the minor league franchise’s history. His most extensive major league season occurred in 2004 with the Astros, when he appeared in 27 games as a reliever.

In 2005 at age 35, Kirk ended his career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. His professional career spanned 14 seasons. Over his five Major League seasons, he appeared in 49 games, all in relief. He compiled a 2-0 won-lost record, recorded one save and posted a 6.53 ERA.

Kirk maintained his New Orleans ties by securing a position with UNO as pitching coach in 2007 through 2009. He was named the baseball head coach for Archbishop Shaw High School in 2013. Kirk was inducted into the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

02/20/2014, Contributed by Richard Cuicchi, richard@thetenthinning.com

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