Baseball Hall of Famer Don Sutton Dies at 75
Don Sutton, who never missed a turn in the rotation in 756 big league starts, passed away this morning at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. He was 75 years old.
“Don Sutton’s brilliance on the field, and his lasting commitment to the game that he so loved, carried through to his time as a Member of the Hall of Fame,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “I know how much he treasured his moments in Cooperstown, just as we treasured our special moments with him. We share our deepest condolences with his wife, Mary, and his family.”
Sutton won 324 games over 23 big league seasons with the Dodgers, Astros, Brewers, Athletics and Angels. The durable Sutton, who ranks third all-time in games started, seventh all-time in innings pitched (5,282.1) and seventh in strikeouts (3,574), worked at least 200 innings in 20 of his first 21 seasons – with only the shortened 1981 campaign interrupting his streak.
Born April 2, 1945, in Clio, Ala., and raised in northern Florida, Sutton was the son of sharecroppers. He showed an affinity for baseball in youth leagues, and by high school was a three-sport star whose reputation ranged state-wide.
Sutton played baseball at Gulf Coast Community College and Whittier College before the Los Angeles Dodgers signed him as a free agent in September of 1964, just months before the first MLB Draft. After going 23-7 at Class A and Double-A in 1965, Sutton won a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation in 1966. He started the third game of the year for the defending World Series champions on April 14, 1966, and earned the first of his 324 big league wins four days later.
Sutton went 12-12 with a 2.99 ERA in his rookie year – a year the Dodgers won the NL pennant – and by 1969 was one of the National League’s busiest pitchers – working 293.1 innings over 41 starts. Sutton earned his first All-Star Game selection in 1972, one of five straight seasons where he finished in the Top 5 of the NL Cy Young Award voting.
Sutton helped the Dodgers win National League pennants in 1974, 1977 and 1978, then won the league’s ERA title in 1980. A master of changing speeds and pitch location, Sutton led the NL in WHIP three times with the Dodgers from 1966-80 before earning another WHIP title in 1981 after signing a free agent deal with the Astros.
A stretch-drive trade in 1982 sent Sutton to the Brewers, where he pitched Milwaukee to its first American League pennant. He worked for his sixth postseason team in 1986 with the AL West champion Angels then returned to the Dodgers in 1988, retiring before the end of a season that saw LA win the World Series.
Only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan made more starts than Sutton, who never visited the disabled list during his career.
Following his playing career, Sutton called Braves games on TBS for three decades, then worked for the Nationals’ TV crew before returning to the Braves on radio.