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MLB

Don Sutton, Hall of Fame pitcher for Dodgers, dies at 75

Mr. Sutton followed through as he fired his first pitch in a 1978 World Series game in Los Angeles.
Mr. Sutton followed through as he fired his first pitch in a 1978 World Series game in Los Angeles.UNCREDITED/Associated Press

New York Times

Don Sutton, a durable right-handed pitcher who won 324 games over 23 years for five teams, most notably the Los Angeles Dodgers, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, has died at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 75.

The Hall of Fame said the cause was cancer. The Hall said he died Tuesday, although his son Daron said on Twitter that he died Monday night.

“He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect,” Daron Sutton said.

Mr. Sutton’s major league career began with the Dodgers in 1966. He went on to win 233 games during 16 seasons with the team, the most in franchise history.

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He never missed a turn in the rotation in 756 big league starts. Only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan made more starts than Mr. Sutton, who never landed on the injured list in his 23-year career.

A master of changing speeds and pitch location, he recorded just one 20-win season but earned 10 or more wins in every year except 1983 and 1988. Of his victories, 58 were shutouts, five were one-hitters, and 10 were two-hitters. The right-hander is seventh on the career strikeout list with 3,574.

Mr. Sutton ranks seventh all time in innings pitched (5,282 1/3). He worked at least 200 innings in 20 of his first 21 seasons, with only the strike-shortened 1981 season interrupting his streak.

“When you gave him the ball, you knew one thing,” former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, who died this month, once said. “Your pitcher was going to give you everything he had.”

Mr. Sutton also pitched for the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels, and Oakland A’s before retiring in 1988. He served as a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves.

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He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his fifth attempt.

“I wanted this for over 40 years,” he said at his Hall of Fame induction speech in Cooperstown, N.Y.. “So why am I shaking like a leaf? Part of it is that I am standing in front of some of the great artists in the world of baseball.”

Mr. Sutton — whose major league career began as part of a Dodger pitching rotation that included Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale — holds the Dodger team records not only for career wins but also for strikeouts (2,696), starts (533), shutouts (52), home runs surrendered (309), and losses (181).

“I never wanted to be a superstar or the highest-paid player,” Mr. Sutton told Baseball Digest in 1985. All he wanted, he said, was to be “consistent, dependable, and you could count on me.”

Donald Howard Sutton was born April 2, 1945, in Clio, Ala., a small city in the southwest part of the state. His father, Charlie Howard Sutton, was a sharecropper who later worked in construction and became a concrete expert. His mother was Lillian (McKnight) Sutton. The Suttons moved to Molino, in the Florida Panhandle, when Don was 5.

Mr. Sutton learned to throw a curveball before his 13th birthday. He excelled in high school and pitched at Gulf Coast Community College, in Panama City, Fla., and Whittier College in California before signing with the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1964.

His 23-7 record for the Dodgers’ Class A and Double A minor-league teams in 1965 led to his promotion to the major leagues the next season.

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As a rookie, he had a 12-12 record with a 2.99 ERA. He recorded 209 strikeouts, the highest total for a rookie since 1911, but did not pitch in the World Series, when the Baltimore Orioles swept the Dodgers in four games. Eight years later, he had two victories over the Pittsburgh Pirates when the Dodgers won the 1974 National League Championship Series, and one in the Dodgers’ World Series loss to Oakland.

He left the Dodgers as a free agent in 1980 and signed with Houston.

A trade in 1982 sent Mr. Sutton to the Brewers, where he pitched Milwaukee to its first American League pennant. He worked for his sixth postseason team in 1986 with the AL West champion Angels and then returned to the Dodgers in 1988, retiring before the end of a season that saw them win the World Series.

Mr. Sutton had known he wanted to pitch from childhood.

“My mother used to worry about my imaginary friends, ‘cause I would be out in the yard playing ball,” Mr. Sutton said at his Hall of Fame induction. “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.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this obituary.