Bruce Sutter, the relief pitcher who relied on a single delivery, the split-fingered fastball, to become a six-time All-Star, the winner of the 1979 Cy Young Award as the National League’s top pitcher, and the first pitcher to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame without having started a major league game, passed away on Thursday at a hospice in Cartersville, Georgia. He was 69.
His passing was reported on the website of the St. Louis Cardinals. Chad, his son, informed The Associated Press that his father was just diagnosed with cancer.
In 1979, he won the Cy Young Award with 37 saves, matching a National League record that has since been broken several times, notably by Sutter himself in 1984 with 45 saves. John Smoltz and Eric Gagne now share the current record of 55 saves in a single season.
In 1982, Sutter (pronounced SUIT-er) pitched two flawless innings to seal the Cardinals’ World Series triumph against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 7 of the World Series.
However, Sutter sometimes deviated from his hallmark pitch, most notably when he closed out the Cardinals’ 1982 World Series victory. “The irony is that he struck out Gorman Thomas with a high fastball travelling barely 84 miles per hour for the last out of the World Series,” Kaat recounted.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, Sutter was lucky to have escaped the minor leagues.
In 1972, he participated in just two games in the Cubs organisation due to a pinched nerve in his right arm. After the season, he got surgery at his own cost because of worry that the Cubs would dismiss him if they learned how severe his condition was. When he arrived at Chicago’s minor league spring training in 1973, though, his fastball had lost velocity.
Fred Martin, the minor league pitching instructor for the Chicago Cubs, was a former pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals and a lengthy minor leaguer. He experimented with what became known as a split-finger delivery. He saw the surgery scar on Sutter’s elbow and instructed him on how to throw the baseball.
The split-fingered delivery requires the pitcher to grip the baseball with the index and middle fingers widely apart on the side and the thumb on the bottom. The baseball has a quick forward spin as it reaches home plate, and what the hitter perceives to be an average fastball or changeup abruptly dives down.
After Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, and Dennis Eckersley, he was the fourth reliever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The pitch that rescued him is still used in modern baseball.
Howard Bruce Sutter was born on January 8, 1953, as the fifth of six children to Howard and Thelma Sutter in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His father ran a Farm Bureau distribution centre.
After briefly attending Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, he was throwing semipro baseball in Pennsylvania in September 1971 when the Cubs organisation signed him.
Following his playing career, Sutter settled in the Atlanta region. Six grandkids and his wife, Jayme Leigh, survive him.
In 2006, the Cardinals performed their own version of retiring Sutter’s number 42. This number was retired by Major League Baseball in honour of Jackie Robinson, but the Cardinals have added Sutter’s name to Robinson’s on the display of retired numbers at Busch Stadium.
Just before to his entrance into the Hall of Fame, Sutter paid thanks to the pitch that saved his career.