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Sutter makes a pitch for Herzog, Lee Smith

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 29, 2009 - Just 127 of Bruce Sutter’s 300 career saves came as a St. Louis Cardinal, yet his bust in the Baseball Hall of Fame sports the cap of this franchise.

He will join five other Cardinal Hall of Famers in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2009 All Star Game.

Needless to say Sutter’s heart remains in St. Louis 25 years after he threw his final pitch as a Redbird.

I can still see Sutter thrusting his right arm into the air after he struck out Gorman Thomas to end the seventh game of the 1982 World Series. The late Darrell Porter ran to the mound with the baseball in his catcher’s mitt, jumped on Sutter and the Cardinals celebrated as thousands of fans stormed the field.

While his winning a title here was probably the clincher as far as Sutter’s wish to be enshrined as a Cardinal, the fans he performed before for four seasons had much to do with his choice.

Sutter said playing before those fans will be a special part of this year’s All Star Game for many opposing players.

“It’s gonna be special,” Sutter said after an autograph session at Bank of America’s Lindell location last week on behalf of MasterCard.

“The players are really going to be excited to experience these hometown fans. I know they will do us all proud.”

Sutter acknowledged that interleague play has exposed many American League players to St. Louis fans, but for many others this will be the first go round. He remembers his years here and what the opposition felt when playing at Busch Stadium.

“I liked to see other players’ faces when they saw what we were talking about – the sea of red,” Sutter said.

Sutter pitched in the Majors from 1976-1989, and pitched for the Cardinals from 1981-1984 after being obtained from the Chicago Cubs. He led the National League in saves three times with the Cardinals and helped his unheralded team win the 1982 title.

In 1979 he accomplished the rare feat of winning the NL Cy Young Award as a reliever and won the Rolaids Relief Pitcher Award four times – three times as a Cardinal.

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, Sutter says he thinks his former St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog should also be enshrined.

“Last time (he was voted on) he missed by one vote. I certainly hope it works out for him,” Sutter said. “He certainly is deserving.”

He also can’t understand why another former Cardinals reliever is not already in Cooperstown.

“I don’t know what the hang-up is with Lee Smith,” said Sutter. “Lee did it the old way. He came in a pitched from the seventh inning on.” Like Sutter, Smith began his career as a Cub. His 478 saves place him third on the all-time list.

“He should be in the Hall, no question,” Sutter said.

Known for his split-finger fastball, Sutter isn’t thrown for a curve when asked about baseball’s ongoing trouble with steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.

“I’m immune to it,” Sutter said of the steroid saga.

“It’s not my call. I like baseball and I like watching the guys play. It’s not for me to sort out,” he said.

Even before his selection to the Hall of Fame, Sutter was no stranger to St. Louis. He is a fixture at Herzog’s annual golf tournament, which is where I first met him after the release of “Whitey’s Boys,” which I co-wrote with Rob Rains.

He’s a bit heavier now than when he took the mound in St. Louis, and we’ve just experienced one of the factors that kept his weight down.

“Playing in this hot weather kept me slim,” he told more than 100 people awaiting autographs.

Alvin A. Reid is editor of the St. Louis Argus and a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.