© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Former Cardinal Sutter inducted into Hall of Fame

Bruce Sutter delivers his speech Sunday at the Baseball Hall of Fame (UPI photo/Bill Greenblatt)
Bruce Sutter delivers his speech Sunday at the Baseball Hall of Fame (UPI photo/Bill Greenblatt)


Cooperstown, NY – Former Cardinal reliever Bruce Sutter, who recorded the final out of the 1982 Cardinals World Series championship, was inducted Sunday into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I am in awe," said Sutter, who joined Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley as the only relief pitchers in the Hall. "I wish I could turn back the clock and play one more game.

"When I got the call in January, it brought closure to a baseball career that did not end how I hoped it would," said Sutter, whose last four years in Atlanta were filled with taunts after rotator-cuff problems eventually forced him to retire with 300 saves after only 12 years in the major leagues. "It answered the question: 'Do you belong?' The thought of having my name in is truly an honor and humbling experience."

Although Sutter was the lone player selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America, he was part of the largest class of inductees in Hall of Fame history. Seventeen players and executives from baseball's segregated past, all of them deceased, were also inducted, including Effa Manley, the first woman to be so honored.

As he did during his stellar 12-year career, Sutter was the closer on this day. And he fought his emotions throughout his speech, which honored everybody who helped him become the first Hall of Famer who never started a game in his career.

After undergoing surgery to fix a pinched nerve in his right elbow, Sutter met a coach named Fred Martin, the roving minor league pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs, in 1973 and three years later was pitching in Wrigley Field.

"Nobody was throwing what he called the split-finger," Sutter said. "It was a pitch that didn't change how the game was played, but developed a new way to get hitters out. Everybody who throws the split-fingered fastball owes a great deal of thanks to Fred Martin (who died in 1979) because he was the first one to teach it."

In 1976, Sutter registered six wins and 10 saves and a 2.70 earned-run average in 52 appearances, and his career took off. The next season he assumed the role of closer for the Cubs and finished with 31 saves and a 1.34 ERA, and in 1978 registered 27 saves.

Sutter was even better the next season, winning the NL Cy Young Award, posting a National League record-tying 37 saves, and also was the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game for the second straight year. But when he won an arbitration award of $700,000 after the season, the Cubs, who had Lee Smith waiting for his chance, traded him to St. Louis after the 1980 season.

Sutter signed a four-year contract worth an estimated $3.5 million with the Cardinals, making him the highest-paid reliever in the game. He averaged almost 32 saves a year and led the league three times, establishing a league-record 45 in 1984, and keyed the Cards' 1982 World Series triumph over Milwaukee, their first title since 1967.

The ceremony was the latest in an emotional weekend for Sutter. On Saturday night, he received word that the Cardinals were going to retire his No. 42, and his wife, Jayme, is facing surgery in two weeks to remove a cancerous kidney. Jayme Sutter was sitting with several family members under a tent far to the right of her husband, who was reluctant to look out at all of his supporters.