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Bruce Sutter

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Title: Bruce Sutter  
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Subject: Rollie Fingers, Lee Smith (baseball), Trevor Hoffman, John Smoltz, Steve Bedrosian
Collection: 1953 Births, American Sportsmen, Atlanta Braves Players, Baseball Players from Pennsylvania, Chicago Cubs Players, Cy Young Award Winners, Gulf Coast Cubs Players, Key West Conchs Players, Living People, Major League Baseball Pitchers, Major League Baseball Players with Retired Numbers, Midland Cubs Players, National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees, National League All-Stars, National League Saves Champions, People from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Quincy Cubs Players, Sportspeople from Chicago, Illinois, Sportspeople from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, St. Louis Cardinals Players, Wichita Aeros Players
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Bruce Sutter

U.S. Route 52 skirts the western fringes of the U.S. state of West Virginia. It runs from the Virginia state line near Bluefield, where it is concurrent with Interstate 77, in a general northwest and north direction to Interstate 64 at Kenova. There it turns east, overlapping Interstate 64 for five miles (8 km) before splitting off onto the West Huntington Expressway into Ohio via the West Huntington Bridge. Despite having an even number, US 52 is signed north–south in West Virginia. In some other states along its route, it is signed east-west. The West Virginia segment is signed such that U.S. 52 north corresponds to the general westward direction of the highway, and vice versa.

Most of the route is being upgraded to a high-speed four-lane divided highway, but not to interstate standards. It has been designated as part of the Interstate 73 and Interstate 74 corridors. From Interstate 77 south of Bluefield to near Williamson, the new highway has been referenced to as the King Coal Highway; from Williamson north to Kenova, it is the Tolsia Highway.

West Huntington Expressway

The West Huntington Expressway is a controlled access elevated highway that crosses the west end of Huntington WV. It was constructed in 1965 and originally signed as West Virginia Route 94. The first segment to open was a stub from Interstate 64 to Jefferson Avenue in West Huntington in the fall of 1965. This included a bridge over a CSX railroad mainline. In the early 1970s, the expressway was extended northward across what is now the Nick Joe Rahall II Bridge across the Ohio River to U.S. Highway 52/State Route 7 in Ohio.

Tolls were collected at the Ohio River bridge until the mid-1980s. The expressway has four lanes from Interstate 64 to the [[U.S. Route 60 Howard Bruce Sutter ( ; born January 8, 1953) is a former Major League Baseball right-handed relief pitcher. He was arguably the first pitcher to make effective use of the split-finger fastball. One of the sport's dominant relievers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he became the only pitcher to lead the National League in saves five times (1979–1982, 1984). In 1979, Sutter won the NL's Cy Young Award as the league's top pitcher.

Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Sutter briefly attended Old Dominion University and was subsequently signed by the Chicago Cubs as an undrafted free agent in 1971. Between 1976 and 1988, he played for the Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. In 1984, Sutter signed a contract with Atlanta that would pay him $4.8 million over six years and place another $4.8 million into a deferred payment account. The press estimated that with interest the account would pay Sutter $1.3 million per year for 30 years. In the mid-1980s, Sutter began to experience shoulder problems, undergoing three surgeries and retiring in 1989.

Sutter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2006, his 13th year of eligibility. He was the fourth relief pitcher to be inducted. He was also selected to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014. He was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies as a minor league consultant.

Early life

Sutter was born to Howard and Thelma Sutter in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His father managed a Farm Bureau warehouse in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania.[1] Bruce was the fifth child of six.[2]

Sutter graduated from Donegal High School in Mount Joy, where he played baseball, football and basketball. He was quarterback and captain of the football team and also served as captain for the basketball squad, which won a district championship in his senior season. His baseball team also won the county championship.[2]


Early career

After being selected by the Washington Senators in the 21st round of the June 1970 draft, Sutter instead attended Old Dominion University before signing with the Cubs as a free agent in September 1971. He pitched in two games for the Gulf Coast League Cubs in 1972.[3] When he was 19, Sutter had surgery on his arm to relieve a pinched nerve.[4] When he recovered from surgery and returned to the mound a year later, Sutter found that his previous pitches were no longer effective. He learned the split-finger fastball from minor league pitching instructor Fred Martin. Sutter's large hands helped him to use the pitch, which was a modification of the forkball.[4]

Sutter had nearly been released by the Cubs, but found success with the new pitch. Mike Krukow, who was also a Cubs minor league player at the time, said, "As soon as I saw him throw it, I knew he was going to the big leagues. Everyone wanted to throw it after he did."[5] He recorded a 3-3 win-loss record, a 4.13 ERA and five saves in 40 games in Class A baseball in 1973.[3]

Sutter split the 1974 season between the Class A Key West Conchs and the Class AA Midland Cubs. Though he finished the season with a combined 2-7 record, he recorded a 1.38 ERA in 65 innings. He returned to Midland in 1975 and finished the year with a 5-7 record, a 2.15 ERA and 13 saves.[3] Sutter led the team in ERA and saves as they won the Texas League West Division pennant.[6] He started the 1976 season with the Class AAA Wichita Aeros, but he pitched only seven games with the team before being promoted to the major leagues.[3]

Chicago Cubs (1976-1980)

Sutter joined the Cubs in May 1976. He pitched in 52 games and finished with a 6-3 win-loss record and 10 saves. In 1977 he had a 1.34 ERA, earned an All-Star Game selection, and finished sixth and seventh in NL Cy Young Award and MVP Award voting, respectively.[7] On September 8, 1977, Sutter struck out three batters on nine pitches — Ellis Valentine, Gary Carter and Larry Parrish — in the ninth inning of a 10-inning 3-2 win over the Montreal Expos. Sutter became the 12th NL pitcher and the 19th pitcher in MLB history to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning. Sutter had also struck out the side (though not on nine pitches) upon entering the game in the eighth inning, giving him six consecutive strikeouts, tying the NL record for a reliever.

Sutter's ERA increased to 3.19 in 1978, but he earned 27 saves.[7] In May 1979, the Cubs acquired relief pitcher Dick Tidrow. Tidrow would enter the game and pitch a couple of innings before Sutter came in for the save. Sutter credited Tidrow for much of his success.[8] Sutter saved 37 games for the club, tying the NL record held by Clay Carroll (1972) and Rollie Fingers (1978), and won the NL Cy Young Award. This year also marked the first of five seasons (four consecutive) in which he led the league in saves. Sutter also won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award and The Sporting News Fireman of the Year Award. In addition to a league-leading 28 saves in 1980, Sutter recorded a 2.64 ERA and finished with a 5-8 win-loss record in 60 games. His strikeout total, which had been over 100 the previous three seasons, fell to 76 that year and he never finished with more than 77 strikeouts in any of his remaining seasons.[7]

St. Louis Cardinals (1981-1984)

Sutter during his Cardinal days.

Sutter was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Leon Durham, Ken Reitz and a player to be named later in December 1980. He made his fifth consecutive All-Star Game in 1981.[7] He recorded 25 saves, registered a 2.62 ERA and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting.[7]

Sutter registered 36 saves in 1982, finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting.[7] The Cardinals won the 1982 World Series and Sutter is credited with two saves in that Series, including the Series-clinching save in Game 7 which ended with a strikeout of Gorman Thomas. He received a leaping hug after that game by catcher and World Series MVP Darrell Porter. Sutter also earned the save in the pennant-clinching victory in the NLCS.

In 1983, Sutter recorded a 9-10 win-loss record and a 4.23 ERA; his save total declined to 21.[7] In April of that year, Sutter executed a rare unassisted pickoff play. Bill Madlock of the Pittsburgh Pirates had reached first base safely and took a long lead off of the base during the next at bat. Madlock became distracted by Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez and Sutter ran off the mound to tag Madlock out.[9]

Sutter, who won both the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award and The Sporting News Reliever of the Year Award again in 1981, 1982 and 1984, tied Dan Quisenberry's major league record for most saves in a season (45) in 1984. (His MLB record was broken by Dave Righetti (46) in 1986 and his NL record was broken by Lee Smith (47) in 1991.) During Sutter's record-breaking season, he pitched a career-high 122 23 innings. It was one of five seasons in which Sutter threw more than 100 innings.[10]

Atlanta Braves (1985-1988)

Sutter joined the Atlanta Braves in December 1984 as a free agent. The New York Times reported that Sutter's six-year contract paid him $4.8 million and placed another $4.8 million into a deferred payment account at 13 percent interest. The newspaper estimated that the account would pay Sutter $1.3 million per year for 30 years after the initial six seasons of the contract. Sutter said that he was attracted to the Braves because of Atlanta's scenery and his respect for Ted Turner and Dale Murphy.[11]

Before the start of the 1985 season, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog commented on facing the season without Sutter. "To me, Bruce is the best there ever was," Herzog said. "Losing him is like Kansas City losing Dan Quisenberry... I told Bruce, 'Look, you've taken care of your children and your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren. Now, if I get fired in July, will you take care of me and Mary Lou?'"[12]

When Sutter arrived in Atlanta, only two pitchers had ever earned 25 or more saves in a season and the 1984 Braves recorded 49 saves as a team, four more than Sutter's previous single-season total.[13] In 1985, Sutter's ERA rose to 4.48 and his saves total decreased to 23.[7] By the end of the season, he was first bothered by nerve impingement in the right shoulder.[14] He underwent surgery on the shoulder after the season, but he recovered in time to appear in spring training in mid-March 1986.[15]

Near the end of March 1986, Sutter commented on his recovery, saying, "I'm throwing the ball as hard as I ever have, but it's just not getting there as fast. I don't know what's going to happen. I just have to keep throwing and see. So far, there have been no setbacks. Today I felt great, no problems."[16] Sutter started the season with a 2-0 record and a 4.34 ERA in 16 games.[7] He was placed on the disabled list (DL) in May due to arm problems. On July 31, manager Chuck Tanner announced that Sutter would probably not return to pitching in that season.[17]

Sutter underwent shoulder surgery in February 1987, the third procedure performed on his arm, in an attempt to remove scar tissue and to promote nerve healing. To recover from the surgery, he was required to miss the entire 1987 season.[18] He returned to action with the Braves on a limited basis in 1988.[2] In late May, Sutter earned saves on consecutive nights and sportswriter Jerome Holtzman characterized his pitching as "vintage Sutter."[19] He finished the year with a 1-4 record, a 4.76 ERA and 14 saves in 38 games pitched.[7] In late September, he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.[20]


By March 1989, Sutter was dealing with a severely torn rotator cuff and he admitted that he would be unlikely to return to baseball. "There's probably a 99.9 percent chance I won't be able to pitch again," he said.[21] Manager Bobby Cox said that "Bruce is not going to retire. We're not going to release him. We'll put him on the 21-day disabled list, then probably move him to the 60-day DL later on."[21] Sutter planned to reevaluate his condition after resting his arm for three to four months.[21] The Braves released him that November.[22]

He retired with exactly 300 saves – at the time, the third highest total in history behind Rollie Fingers (341) and Rich "Goose" Gossage (302). His career saves total was an NL record until broken by Lee Smith in 1993; Sutter had set the NL record in 1982 with his 194th save, surpassing the mark held by Roy Face. In his first nine seasons, only Kent Tekulve made more appearances, and he saved 133 of the Cubs' 379 wins between 1976 and 1980.

Hall of Fame

Bruce Sutter's number 42 was retired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.

Sutter appeared on his thirteenth Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 2006. Sportswriter Matthew Leach of referred to this ballot as Sutter's best chance for induction; he pointed out that Sutter would only be eligible for two more Hall of Fame ballots. Nearing the end of his eligibility, Sutter said he did not think about induction very often. "It's just an honor to be on the ballot, but it's not something I think that much about. I have no control over it. ... It's out of my hands. It's the voters, it's in the voters' hands. There's nothing I can do about it. I can't pitch anymore... There's a lot of guys that I think should be in that aren't in. It's for the special few people to get into the Hall of Fame. It shouldn't be easy to get in," he said.[23]

On January 10, 2006, Sutter was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 13th year of eligibility by receiving 400 votes out of a possible 520, or 76.9%. He was the fourth relief pitcher inducted, the first pitcher inducted without starting a game[24] and the first inductee to end his career with fewer than 1700 [

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