Bruce Sutter, a legendary pitcher, passed away at age 69
Near his home in Cartersville, Georgia, Bruce Sutter, a Hall of Famer who revolutionized the closer position and the split-fingered fastball and sealed the 1982 World Series title for the St. Louis Cardinals, passed away on Thursday at the age of 69.
Sutter, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame who is also one of 14 Cardinals to have their number retired, was last seen at Busch Stadium on April 7 on Opening Day. Due to the persistent sickness that eventually resulted in his death in hospice care, he was unable to attend the Cards’ Aug. 13 commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1982 championship squad.
Over 12 seasons with the Cubs, Cardinals, and Braves, Sutter recorded 300 saves and an impressive 2.83 earned run average (ERA). He was the first pitcher to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame without ever having made a starting appearance. While with the Cubs in 1979, he saved 37 games and was named the NL Cy Young Award winner. In 1982, he helped the Cardinals win the World Series and finished with 36 saves. In 1984, he tied the MLB record with 45 saves, and in September of 1988, he recorded his 300th career save while with the Braves.
“I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Bruce Sutter, whose career was an incredible baseball success story,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Bruce ascended from being a nondrafted free agent to the heights of baseball by pioneering the split-fingered fastball. The pitch not only led him to the Major Leagues, but also made him a Cy Young Award winner with the Cubs and a World Series Champion with the 1982 Cardinals. … Bruce will be remembered as one of the best pitchers in the histories of two of our most historic franchises. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my condolences to Bruce’s family, his friends and his fans in Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta and throughout our game.”
Sutter’s most famous moment occurred on October 20, 1982, when he struck out Brewers slugger Gorman Thomas and caught leaping catcher Darrell Porter in his arms at the mound. After the Cardinals finally won the World Series after 15 years, they were mobbed by teammates and supporters at Busch Stadium. To strike out Thomas, Sutter utilized a tailing fastball, which is ironic given that his split-fingered fastball helped him become one of the game’s most spectacular closers. After arm surgery in 1973, Sutter turned to Cubs Minor League instructor Fred Martin for help developing a new pitch: the split-fingered fastball.
His Hall of Fame colleague and 1982 squad mate, Jim Kaat, told MLB.com on Friday that Bruce “I think he was sort of a precursor to what Mariano Rivera did with the cutter — Bruce did it with one pitch and that was the split-fingered fastball, Even though hitters knew it was coming, they still weren’t able to hit it. The irony of that is that he struck out Gorman Thomas for the last out of the World Series on a high fastball that was just 84 miles per hour.”
“Being a St. Louis Cardinal was an honor he cherished deeply,” Chad Sutter said. “To the Cardinals, his teammates and, most importantly, the greatest fans in all of sports, we thank you for all of the love and support over the years. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on through his family and through Cardinal Nation!”