ATLANTA, GEORGIA • On this day in baseball history, a pitcher who never started a game, was elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame – the first time it ever happened. Closer Bruce Sutter got the call at his home in Atlanta that he was just the fourth relief pitcher invited to the Hall. The others were Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley, but they all started games during their careers.
It was a bad break that paved the way for Sutter. Mike Spellman of Chicago’s Daily Herald wrote that Sutter was discovered by Chicago Cubs scout Ralph Diullo playing semi-pro ball in Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1971.
Sutter was only two games into his minor league career when he injured his elbow requiring surgery. He didn’t pitch again until 1973 and when he did his fastball was gone. Sutter credits Cubs minor league pitching coaches Fred Martin and Mike Roarke with showing him how to throw a splitter. That was the pitch that got him 300 Saves in a 12-year career.
Sutter was a throw-back closer. He frequently pitched more than one inning in an appearance. Five times he pitched over 100 innings. For ten straight seasons Sutter pitched at least 80 innings. Mariano Rivera pitched 100 innings once. Only twice has he pitched over 80. White Sox closer Bobby Jenks has never pitched more than 70 innings in a season.
Paul Newberry, Associated Press, January 11, 2006
Mike Spellman, Daily Herald (suburban Chicago), January 11, 2006