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Friday, October 14, 2022

Hall of Fame reliever, Cy Young Award winner Bruce Sutter dies at 69

Sutter, who is widely considered to be one of the first pitchers to throw a split-finger fastball, spent 12 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1976-1988.

Sutter made his debut with the Chicago Cubs and won the NL Cy Young award in 1979 after making 37 saves with 110 strikeouts on the year. He spent five seasons in Chicago before leaving for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1981.

He helped close out their World Series win in 1982 and ended Game 7 of that series with a strikeout to beat the Milwaukee Brewers. Sutter then finished his career with the Atlanta Braves, where he picked up his 300th career save.

The six-time All-Star was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 14, 2022 at 11:52 PM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bruce sutter, obituaries

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   1. The Duke Posted: October 15, 2022 at 12:19 AM (#6100845)
I went to look at the MLB HOF video from July 24 and he was there. Looking a bit frail. So not sure what happened. What was most interesting was that a large proportion of attending HOFrs were non-white. It seemed like almost half were black or Hispanic which is really high compared to the proportions in the General MLB population. Koufax was the oldest member attending in terms of class (1972).
   2. sanny manguillen Posted: October 15, 2022 at 12:50 AM (#6100848)
I remembered him striking out Dave Steib to end the 1981 All Star Game, but it seems that was the second out and Sutter still had to get Winfield to close it out.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: October 16, 2022 at 12:37 AM (#6101024)
There wasn't a lot to get excited about with those late 70 Cubs teams -- the first half of 77, some Kong HRs, the size of Reuschel's pot belly ... and Bruce Sutter. He was the guy we'd see every 2-3 games who actually did what he was supposed to do really, really well ... and got to play a key role in a substantial portion of the Cubs' irregular wins.

That split-finger when we first saw it was revelatory. It wasn't like the splitters of the post-Mike Scott era, it was more like a knuckler that always broke straight down or maybe Trevor Hoffman's changeup. While obviously this isn't physically possible, it really did seem to be scooting up there at about 88 MPH, straight as an arrow, about to be hit 400 feet ... then it would drop like a rock and the batter would miss it by a foot. The looks on the batters' faces were pretty much the same as us fans. It seemed so unhittable that Chuck Tanner tried the strategy of telling his hitters to stop trying since it always came in low ... which seemed to work for a game or two.

I'm not even sure Rivera belongs in the HoF so I sure don't think Sutter does but, as a fan, it doesn't make me unhappy. He really was quite the phenomenon, a national baseball story.

And #1: that's often how cancer works -- you can even go from not knowing anything's wrong (or what it is) to passing away within a couple of months.
   4. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: October 16, 2022 at 10:57 AM (#6101059)
I worked for the local park district when I was in college. I came home from one semester and a longtime co-worker had died of cancer. He hadn't even been diagnosed when the semester began, but people told that when things went downhill for him, it all went downhill completely.
   5. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 16, 2022 at 11:43 AM (#6101065)
I first started really getting into baseball in 1982, when I was eight years old. That year's playoffs were a big part of falling in love with the sport, especially the ALCS (where the Brewers came from behind to win the pennant) and the World Series (which had such a clean narrative of big slugging Brewers vs fast, defense-and-pitching-based Cardinals). Gorman Thomas vs Willie McGee kind of thing.

Well, with Rollie Fingers out of the series because of injury, Sutter was my first real impression of a big, bad, nasty closer. That was before sabermetrics really got going, and at that time, I thought Sutter had near-magical powers. (If you look back now, he only struck out 61 in 102 innings - it is such a different game today.)

Anyway, he may be the most unusual selection voted into the HOF of my lifetime (Baines wasn't elected via the BBWAA...), which for the sabermetrically-inclined, is probably one of the first things you think of when his name comes up. But that shouldn't take away the following:
- He was damned good for several years
- He did popularize a new pitch to the sport, which not many can say
- When Ted Turner signed him to the Braves, it was a really big deal. If you look at the timing of his free agency, he couldn't have timed it much better from a financial POV. He was clearly on the decline, but the roles of saves, and his reputation over the last several years prior, allowed him to cash in just before it all sort of fell apart on the field. He was one of the first, if not the first, "SuperStation TBS" big money signings by Turner.
- The best argument you can make for Sutter as a Hall of Famer is that it is the Hall of Fame. If you are telling the story of baseball in the late 70s through the early 1980s, you could argue that Bruce Sutter was an important part of that story - and, he was awfully good for a while there. If he had been playing for the Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies, or even the Royals or Pirates instead of the Cubs, he may well have been an even bigger deal in the late 1970s. It's a little bit of why David Ortiz (who was a much more valuable player than Sutter over the course of his career) was a pretty obvious first-ballot guy, instead of a "work your way up the ballot" guy - the fame part, if you are a very good player, is additive to your candidacy. And Sutter was one of those guys for several years.

All in all, he is one of those guys that still exists in the memory of my childhood, 40 years later, for which I am grateful. Thank you, Bruce Sutter.

I am very sorry for his all-to-early passing, which did seem pretty sudden. RIP.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 16, 2022 at 12:10 PM (#6101071)
RIP
   7. The Duke Posted: October 16, 2022 at 12:26 PM (#6101074)
Yeah, I think his HOF case does come down to that very unique pitch. Makes one wonder why Tommy John hasn't been able to parlay his record and surgery into the Hall.

Fame is an important component. It's why I continue to hope Garvey and Parker get in the Hall. They were very much the face of baseball at the time and that's important.
   8. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: October 16, 2022 at 01:54 PM (#6101083)
I'm not even sure Rivera belongs in the HoF so I sure don't think Sutter does but, as a fan, it doesn't make me unhappy. He really was quite the phenomenon, a national baseball story.
Never mind that Sutter pitched exclusively in relief; how many players in Cooperstown played only 12 seasons? (IIRC, the approximate average is 18.)
Makes one wonder why Tommy John hasn't been able to parlay his record and surgery into the Hall.
Obligatory.
   9. Perry Posted: October 16, 2022 at 11:51 PM (#6101161)
If you look at the timing of his free agency, he couldn't have timed it much better from a financial POV.


He (or his agent) also cleverly deferred a lot of the money. The contract was nominally for 6 years and $9.1 million; with the deferrals and interest, he ended up collecting over $1 million a year for more than 30 years, ending just last year, plus a $9 million balloon payment this year.
   10. SandyRiver Posted: October 17, 2022 at 10:34 AM (#6101188)
- He did popularize a new pitch to the sport, which not many can say

Maybe he's the Candy Cummings of the 20th century?
   11. Accent Shallow is still reading xi as squiggle Posted: October 17, 2022 at 01:49 PM (#6101218)
Makes one wonder why Tommy John hasn't been able to parlay his record and surgery into the Hall.


Hey, if Tommy John had performed his own surgery, I'd definitely support his HoF candidacy.

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