GREENVILLE, N.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer Jim "Catfish" Hunter was unconscious and in critical condition in a neuro-intensive care unit after falling and hitting his head, a hospital spokesman said Tuesday.
Hunter, 53, who suffers from amyothropic lateral sclerosis--an irreversible deterioration of the muscles--fell Sunday while negotiating cement steps outside his home in Hertford, a friend said.
"We just need everybody to keep him in your prayers," Hunter's wife, Helen, said Tuesday. "We need everybody's prayers right now, and we need them strong."
Hunter was taken to a hospital in Edenton and transferred early Monday to Pitt County Memorial Hospital, which serves the East Carolina University medical school.
Hunter was unconscious and on a ventilator Tuesday, hospital spokesman Doug Boyd said. His condition was downgraded to critical from serious Monday, when he was awake, Boyd said.
Hunter's family was at the hospital with their minister, Boyd said. "The family is very private right now," he said.
Childhood friend Charles Woodard said Hunter fell around 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
"He was outside seeing off a friend and was going back up the steps to his house when his feet got tangled," Woodard said. "He just fell backward and hit his head."
The former major league pitcher was diagnosed in September with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a neurological disease that interferes with the signals the brain sends to the muscles. Over time, the muscles degenerate. The cause is unknown, and there is no cure.
Hunter pitched for 15 years, winning 224 games, including a perfect game. He received five World Series rings while playing for the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.
Boyd said Hunter hasn't undergone surgery since he was admitted to the hospital.
"The specialists up there are trying to support him as best they can," he said.