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July 31st, 2006

 

Hall of Fame relief for Sutter

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The Associated Press
Bruce Sutter, the newest inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, holds his plaque on Sunday at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown.

By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer

COOPERSTOWN — Bruce Sutter’s place in baseball history is finally secure, all those taunts at the end of his career now just a faded memory.
For 17 players and executives from baseball’s segregated past, their enshrinement in Cooperstown ensures their contributions to the game won’t be forgotten.
Eighteen years after he hung up his spikes for good, Sutter was inducted Sunday into the Baseball Hall of Fame, finally making it after 13 years of waiting and wondering.
“I am in awe,” said Sutter, who joined Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley as the only relief pitchers in the Hall. “When I got the call in January, it brought closure to a baseball career that did not end how I’d always hoped it would.”
Although Sutter was the lone player selected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, he was part of the largest class of inductees in Hall of Fame history. He joined 17 honorees from the Negro Leagues, including Effa Manley, the first woman to be so honored.
“It’s a wonderful day,” said Rachel Robinson, the wife of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier 59 years ago. “I’m very excited about it. It’s a long time coming. We’re very, very proud of the Negro Leaguers.”
Sutter’s last four years were spent with Atlanta, and they were filled with boos after rotator-cuff problems robbed his talent. He finally retired after four surgeries on his right arm.
“The call answered a question that had been ongoing for 13 years, a question, quite frankly, that I would ask myself every year at election time: ‘Do you belong?”’ said Sutter, who had 300 saves in 12 years in the major leagues. “The thought of having my plaque beside the greatest players who have ever played the game is truly an honor and humbling experience.
“I wish I could trot out there and get that feeling again, but Father Time has caught up with me,” Sutter said. “First, he took my arm, then he took my hair, then he took the color from my beard. But he did not take the great friendships and memories I have from being a baseball player.”
Sutter also shared the dais with J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Tracy Ringolsby, a baseball writer for more than three decades and current national columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, and Ford C. Frick Award winner Gene Elston, former broadcast voice of Houston baseball.
As he did during his stellar career, Sutter was the closer on this day. And he fought his emotions throughout his speech, which honored everybody who helped him become the first Hall of Famer who never started a game.
“This day is not about me. It’s about all the people who helped me along the way. I would not be standing here without them,” said Sutter, his familiar beard now mostly gray. “My father got me started in baseball. He would always come home from work and I was always waiting there with a glove and a ball. He was never too tired to go outside and play catch. My dad had a calming demeanor about him. It was his temperament that rubbed off on me, and later it was a tremendous help to me as a closer.
“My parents have since passed on, but I know they’re looking down and are proud of what I’ve been able to achieve.”
Sutter perhaps owed his biggest debt to the late Fred Martin, the roving minor league pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs who taught him to throw the pitch that saved his career: the split-fingered fastball. After undergoing surgery to fix a pinched nerve in his right elbow, Sutter, then 19, met Martin in 1973 and three years later was pitching in Wrigley Field.
“It was a pitch that didn’t change how the game was played, but developed a new way to get hitters out,” Sutter said. “Everybody who throws the split-fingered fastball owes a great deal of thanks to Fred Martin because he was the first one to teach it.”
In 1976, Sutter had six wins and 10 saves and a 2.70 ERA in 52 appearances, and his career took off. He assumed the role of closer for the Cubs the next season and finished with 31 saves and a 1.34 ERA, and had 27 saves in 1978.
Sutter was even better the next season, winning the NL Cy Young Award, posting a National League record-tying 37 saves, and also was the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game for the second straight year. But when he won an arbitration award of $700,000 after the season, the Cubs, who had Lee Smith waiting for his chance, traded him to St. Louis after the 1980 season.
Sutter signed a four-year contract worth an estimated $3.5 million with the Cardinals, making him the highest-paid reliever in the game. He averaged almost 32 saves a year and led the league three times, establishing a league-record 45 in 1984, and keyed the Cards’ 1982 World Series triumph over Milwaukee, their first title since 1967.
“Every pitcher dreams of pitching in the major leagues and imagines himself striking out the final batter to end the seventh game of the World Series,” said Sutter, who accomplished the feat when he fanned Gorman Thomas to finish the 1982 World Series. “Well, I’m one of the lucky ones who got to realize that dream.”
Sutter was a bundle of nerves. On Saturday night, he received word that the Cardinals were going to retire his No. 42, and was speechless. And his wife, Jayme, is facing surgery in two weeks to remove a cancerous kidney.
“I’m not usually an emotional guy,” said Sutter, who was greeted before his speech by Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Johnny Bench wearing long, gray beards in an effort to relax Sutter. “My kids said the first time they ever saw me cry was when I got that phone call. I guess a lot of people have seen me crying now.”

 

 

Post 489 tourney run ends

VESTAL — The magic ran out for this baseball Cinderella on Saturday when the clock struck 12.
The incredible run by Cortland Post 489 came to an end with a 13-4 loss to Vestal Post 89 at Vestal High, snapping a four-game winning streak and ending a bid for the District 6 American Legion Tournament crown.
“It was a great run,” Cortland coach Jeff Fleger said. “We did not have a large number of players, but we accomplished a lot.  “We really needed the day off Friday. We may have lost some momentum, but we really hurt ourselves with four errors.”
Nate Sanzo pitched a solid game for Vestal as he allowed just seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts in the complete game victory.
Corey Taylor powered the Post 89 attack by going 3-for-5 with two RBIs, including a solo home run in the top of the seventh. Tim Myers added a 2-for-5 effort with three RBIs.
Josh Wood provided most of the Cortland offense was he was 3-for-3 with three doubles and four RBIs.
Aaron Galutz pitched six-plus innings with Jason Hogan and Tim Fulton relieving.
“Aaron pitched a lot this past week,” Flegler said. “It was lot more pitching than he should have needed to do, but he really did a nice job.”
Cortland Post 489 ended the tournament with a 5-2 record and was 14-13 overall for the season.
“The guys really did accomplish a lot,” Flegler stated. “We played a lot of baseball, especially the last three weeks. Between the World Youth Classic and the District 6 Tournament, we gained a lot of experience.
“This was a great bunch of kids and I really got help from some great assistant coaches. I know we surprised a few people and we really showed them what we could do. I was very proud of this group.”
Vestal advanced to the championship game on Sunday, losing to undefeated Johnson City 11-5 at Vestal High School. A two-run eighth inning home run by Bill Puttman, Johnson City nursing a 6-5 lead at the time, started a five-run outburst that finished off the victory.
Johnson City has a perfect 22-0 record to take into the American Legion State Tournament that gets underway Wednesday in Utica.