Bruce Sutter, Hall of Famer and Cy Young winner, dies at 69

by The Associated Press
Icon Sportswire / Getty

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Bruce Sutter, a Hall of Fame reliever and the 1979 Cy Young winner, has died. He was 69.

The Baseball Hall of Fame said Sutter died Thursday in Cartersville, Georgia. The Sutter family did not provide a cause of death in its statement, which was released Friday.

“All our father ever wanted to be remembered as was being a great teammate, but he was so much more than that,” it said. “He was also a great husband to our mother for 50 (years), he was a great father and grandfather and he was a great friend. His love and passion for the game of baseball can only be surpassed by his love and passion for his family.”

Sutter is considered one of the first pitchers to throw a split-finger fastball. The right-hander played 12 seasons in the major leagues, was a six-time All-Star and ended up with 300 saves over his career.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he was "deeply saddened" by the news.

“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,” Manfred said in a statement. “Bruce will be remembered as one of the best pitchers in the histories of two of our most historic franchises.”

Sutter debuted with the Chicago Cubs in 1976. The reliever won the Cy Young in 1979 in a season where he had 37 saves, 2.22 ERA and 110 strikeouts.

He joined the St. Louis Cardinals and played with them from 1981 to 1984. There, he won a World Series in 1982, ending Game 7 against the Brewers with a strikeout.

“Being a St Louis Cardinal was an honor he cherished deeply,” the Sutter family's statement said. “To the Cardinals, his teammates and most importantly to the greatest fans in all of sports, we thank you for all of the love and support over the years.”

His last save, No. 300, came with the Atlanta Braves in 1988. Sutter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

“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," Cardinals owner and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. "He was a true pioneer in the game, changing the role of the late inning reliever.”

Sutter was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in January 1953. The Baseball Hall of Fame said in a release that he learned the split-finger fastball from a Cubs minor-league pitching instructor while recovering from surgery on his right elbow.

The Cardinals said Sutter is survived by his wife, three sons, a daughter-in-law and six grandkids.

“I feel like a brother passed away,” Hall of Famer Jim Kaat said. “I knew Bruce deeper than just about any other teammate. We spent a lot of time together, and as happens when your careers end, you go your separate ways. But we stayed in touch and considered each other great friends."

AP Sports Writers Ron Blum and Tom Canavan contributed to this report.