Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter dies at 69

The St. Louis Cardinals organization, and baseball fans everywhere, were saddened today to learn of the passing of Hall of Famer Howard “Bruce” Sutter at the age of 69. Sutter, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, was just the fourth reliever enshrined, and the first player to have never started a game to be elected. Sutter was a six-time All-Star and the 1979 NL Cy Young Award winner. His uniform number 42 is one of 14 numbers retired by the Cardinals.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Bruce Sutter, whose career was an incredible baseball success story,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said 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. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my condolences to Bruce’s family, his friends and his fans in Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta and throughout our game.”

• 10 moments that defined Sutter’s career

“On behalf of the Cardinals organization and baseball fans everywhere, I would like to express our deepest condolences to the Sutter family,” said Cardinals’ Principal Owner & Chief Executive Officer Bill DeWitt, Jr. “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 pitched for the Cardinals from 1981 to 1984. Acquired from the Chicago Cubs on Dec. 9, 1980, in exchange for first baseman Leon Durham, third baseman Ken Reitz and minor-league third baseman Ty Waller, Sutter proved to be a key acquisition for general manager and manager Whitey Herzog in his transformation of the Cardinals from underachievers to World Champions.

During the strike-shortened 1981 season, Sutter saved 25 games – the most by a St. Louis pitcher since the save became an officially recognized statistic in 1969. Chants of “Bruuuuuce!” bellowed throughout Busch Stadium every time he ran in from the bullpen. Sutter recorded 36 saves in 1982 and struck out Gorman Thomas of the Milwaukee Brewers to wrap up Game 7 of the World Series.

Sutter debuted with the Chicago Cubs in 1976. He won the 1979 N.L. Cy Young Award after amassing 37 saves and a 2.22 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 101.3 innings pitched. He was only the third reliever to be so honored, following Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974 and Sparky Lyle of the New York Yankees in 1977.

In 12 Major League seasons, Sutter totaled 300 saves to rank third on baseball’s all-time list at the time of his retirement. He worked more than one inning for 188 of his rescues and surpassed 100 innings pitched in a season on five occasions, with one more year at 99. Sutter led the Senior Circuit in saves in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1984. He was a six-time All-Star – appearing in four games and earning two wins (1978 and 1979) and two saves (1980 and 1981) while not allowing a run – and received the Rolaids Relief Man Award four times. His career ended in 1988 after pitching in three seasons for the Atlanta Braves.

Sutter’s four-year St. Louis save total of 127 established a franchise record and now ranks fourth behind Jason Isringhausen (217), Lee Smith (160) and Todd Worrell (129). Sutter was voted the relief pitcher on the All-Busch Stadium II team in 2005 and was an inaugural member of the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame in 2014.

Sutter was born on January 8, 1953 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is survived by his wife, Jayme, sons Josh, Chad and Ben; daughter-in-law Amanda Sutter, and his six grandchildren.