ST. LOUIS – Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog is one person who knows how talented Bruce Sutter could be on the mound.
The news of former Cardinals relief pitcher Sutter’s passing away at age 69 began making its way through St. Louis on Friday. Sutter is survived by his wife, three children, and grandchildren.
He was the creator of the split-finger fastball. It was a modified forkball that helped the Cardinals win the World Series in 1982.
“When I look back at the last 25 years of Bruce’s life, living in a beautiful home north of Atlanta,” Herzog said. “His wife has had four cancer operations, and she’s surviving. He took care of her, and he’s been a great husband. He was a great teammate and a great guy to have, and then to realize that he’s no longer with us is a big shock to me.”
Sutter was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, the fourth reliever enshrined and the first player to never have started a game to be elected.
He was a six-time all-star and the 1979 National League Cy Young Award winner. When Sutter was traded to the Cardinals from the Cubs, he became Herzog’s go-to guy.
“I never seen a more dominant relief pitcher,” he said. “Somebody who would take the ball with two outs in the seventh and finish the game. Somebody that when they sent a kid up to hit against him, it was like taking candy from a baby.”
The calls were made in 1982, in game seven against the Milwaukee Brewers’ right-handed hitter and centerfielder, Gorman Thomas.
“He had a split finger that was different than anybody else,” Herzog said. “He had a thumb he would place on the grip, and you could hear the thumb pop every time he’d throw it. I remember that if he threw over 35 or 40 pitches, then he wasn’t available the next day because his thumb was sore.”
Sutter’s uniform number 42 is one of 14 numbers retired by the Cardinals.
His teammates called Sutter “Engine number 42.” The Cardinals retired that number in 2006. Sutter was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014. You can see his plaque on the second floor of the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown St. Louis.