R I P Don Sutton, Second Hall of Famer Lost in 2021

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Hi all. Here’s how I see baseballon this Wednesday, January 20, 2021. As the nation inaugurates a new president, and as the Blue Jays prepare to welcome George Springer into the fold, it has become necessary to writeyet another obituary for a lost Hall of Famer. Former outstanding pitcherand commentator Don Sutton passed away at age 75. I’ve heard his recent broadcasts and thought, like the Yankees’ John Sterling, that Sutton was slowing down, but to me at least, Sutton’s passing was a shock.

  I remember Don Sutton pitching for the Dodgers in 1971.  I was a boy of 8, and this was my first year as a fan, a year of discovery when everything was new.  I heard new names everywhere the Mets traveled, and new names came to Shea Stadium.  Many of those stuck with me through the years—Seaver of course, Gibson, Clemente, Juan Marichal, and of course Don Sutton.  I didn’t know it then, but Sutton was both a relatively young man of 26 and a veteran of 5 years service in baseball already.  He broke in with the Dodgers in 1966 and would remain with them through 1980.  While he bounced around during the next 7 years, he called it a career where it all began, at Chavez Ravine. When the dust settled, he finished with a 324-256 record and just under 3600 strikeouts.  He was an All-Star 4 times in 6 years, between 1972 and 1977. 3 years later, in his last consecutive Dodger season, he led his league in ERA. It took until his fifth ballot for him to reach Cooperstown, and by the time that happened, he was 10 years into his second career as a broadcaster.  His gentle Alabama voice was just what Braves fans wanted to hear, and they tuned in for nearly 30 years. 

  As a rookie, his teammates on the starting pitching staff were Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Claude Osteen. The team made the World Series, but down 3 games to None, they wouldn’t pitch the rookie.  Instead, they lost game 4 behind Don Drysdale. 

  That might have been the first of many World Series appearances, considering the greatness of the Dodgers’ staff.  Nobody knew it was already Koufax’s final year and Drysdale would soon follow the great lefty into retirement, leaving Sutton as the ace by default. It took 8 years to get back to the World Series.  That time, Sutton won 2 of the 3 NLCS wins the Dodgers got over Pittsburgh. He got the win in the only game the Dodgers won against Oakland in the World Series. He won a game in the 1977 Series, in which the Dodgers lost to the Yankees. His only 20-game winning season was in 1976 when he won 21, but the Dodgers couldn’t catch the Big Red Machine that year. As of now, his 233 wins and 2696 strikeouts are franchise highs for the Dodgers.

  In 1989, Sutton split time in the booth between Dodgers games and Braves games.  He joined the Braves full time in 1990 and lasted until 2006.  After two years in Washington, he was back in Atlanta in 2009 on Braves radio with Jim Powell.

  Sutton had suffered from cancer going back to 2002 when he lost a kidney.  He lost part of a lung the following year.  On the 18th, he passed away in California. 

R I P  Don Sutton.


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