Hall of Fame right-hander Don Sutton, who won 324 games and struck out 3,574 batters over 23 seasons in the major leagues from 1966 to 1988, has died at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer.
His son Daron revealed on Twitter that Sutton died in his sleep on Monday night at his home in Rancho Mirage, California.
Sutton spent the first 15 seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming the franchise’s all-time leader with 233 wins. He also pitched for the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s and California Angels before returning to the Dodgers for his final season.
Overshadowed by Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale when he first reached the majors in 1966, Sutton was perhaps best known for his durability and consistency. The four-time All-Star never missed his turn in the rotation over 756 starts – the third-most all-time behind only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan.
“When you gave him the ball, you knew one thing – your pitcher was going to give you everything he had,” Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda once said of Sutton.
During a five-year span with L.A. from 1972-76, Sutton was one of the best pitchers in the game – averaging 19 wins per season with an ERA of 2.73. He finished among the top five in the National League Cy Young balloting each of those five seasons, but never won the award.
Coming close but never winning was a theme throughout Sutton’s career. He pitched for five NL pennant-winners as a member of the Dodgers. He participated in three World Series, but the Dodgers lost them all – falling to the Oakland A’s in 1974 and the New York Yankees in consecutive seasons in 1977 and 1978.
“I know Don would be the first to tell you he didn’t have the greatest stuff,” recalled fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine. “But that’s a testament to him. It’s a testament to his competitiveness, to his intelligence when it comes to pitching.”
Sutton made it to the Fall Classic one more time in 1982 with the Brewers, who ended up losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
He also fell short in his first four years of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. But the fifth time was the charm in 1998, when Sutton was the only player elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America – collecting 81.6% of the vote.
“My mother used to worry about my imaginary friends ‘cause I would be out in the yard playing ball,” Sutton said in his Hall of Fame induction speech. “She worried because she didn’t know a Mickey, or a Whitey, or a Yogi, or a Moose, or an Elston, but I played with them every day.”
After his playing career ended, Sutton embarked on a second career in the broadcast booth. He served as a full-time analyst for the Atlanta Braves on TBS from 1990 to 2006 before joining the Washington Nationals broadcast team for two seasons. He returned to Atlanta with the Braves radio network in 2009.
He was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2015 for his work as a broadcaster.
Sutton dealt with a number of health problems after his playing days ended. In 2002, he was off the air for several weeks following an operation to remove a cancerous kidney. He had part of his lung removed in 2003. He also missed the entire 2019 season while recovering from a broken femur.
“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.”