Sports

Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter, World Series champion, dead at 69

Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter has died at age 69, the St. Louis Cardinals announced Friday. Sutter played 12 seasons in the big leagues from 1976-88, including four years with St. Louis, before being elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006 as the first pitcher inducted without ever starting a game.

“On behalf of the Cardinals organization and baseball fans everywhere, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the Sutter family,” Cardinals principal owner and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Bruce was a fan-favorite during his years in St. Louis and in the years to follow, and he will always be remembered for his 1982 World Series clinching save and signature split-fingered pitch. He was a true pioneer in the game, changing the role of the late inning reliever. ”

Sutter was a pioneer who helped popularize the split-finger fastball, a pitch few threw regularly before he mastered it. Furthermore, he was the first true “modern” closer whose work was limited to save situations. Chicago Cubs manager Herman Franks used Sutter that way early on his career, and other teams soon followed along with their best relievers.

Originally a 21st round pick by the Senators in the 1970 draft, Sutter did not sign with Washington, and instead went to the Cubs as an undrafted free agent in September 1971. He made his MLB debut May 1976 and immediately became one of the best relievers in baseball. Sutter was an All-Star the next year and won the NL Cy Young with Chicago in 1979.

The Cubs traded Sutter to the rival Cardinals for three players in December 1980. In St. Louis, he closed out the 1982 World Series and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting three times in his four years with the Cardinals. He finished his career with the Atlanta Braves after signing a four-year contract that included 30 years of deferred payments.

Sutter led the league in saves five times, went to six All-Star Games, and received Cy Young votes in five seasons. He received MVP votes in six seasons as well. At the time of his retirement of him, Sutter’s 300 career saves were the third most all-time and a National League record.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Bruce Sutter, whose career was an incredible baseball success story,” commissioner Rob Manfred added in a statement. “Bruce ascended from being a nondrafted free agent to the heights of Baseball by pioneering the split-fingered fastball. That 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 was the first pitcher to reach the Hall of Fame without starting a game, and he was one of the key figures who foreshadowed how the use of relievers would evolve. ”

“Bruce will be remembered as one of the best pitchers in the histories of two of our most historic franchises,” Manfred added. “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my condolences to Bruce’s family, his friends and his fans of him in Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta and throughout our game.”

Sutter was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 13th year on the ballot. He was the fourth reliever inducted and has a Cardinals cap on his plaque despite playing more years and making more career appearances with the Cubs. The Cardinals retired No. 42 in Sutter’s honor in 2006. The number was universally retired for Jackie Robinson in 1997.

Sutter is survived by his wife, Jayme, as well as their three sons and six grandchildren.

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