The 32-year-old Sutter was coming off of a career high 45 saves and a 1.54 ERA in 1984. He also had a career high 122 innings pitched, the 5th season of his career where he topped 100 relief innings. His resume with the Cubs and Cardinals also included the 1979 Cy Young award, 6 All-Star appearances, and 5 times leading the NL in saves.
His 1985 season ended with 23 saves, 7 losses, a 4.48 ERA, and off-season shoulder surgery. 1986 was worse: 16 games, and shoulder problems ended his season in May. In February of 1987 he underwent shoulder surgery again and missed the entire season. Sutter struggled through the 1988 season before retiring in March of 1989. The 40th and final of his Braves saves was the 300th of his career.
Bruce was involved in one of MLB’s most famous games, surrendering the eventual game winning homer to Mike Schmidt in the Cubs 23 – 22 loss to the Phillies, May 17th, 1979. What collection of stiffs, you may ask, could combine to allow 45 runs in a 9-inning game? Well, in addition to the Hall of Famer Sutter, Cubs pitchers were Dennis Lamp, Donnie Moore, Willie Hernandez, Bill Caudill, and Ray Burris. On the Phillies side were Randy Lerch, Doug Bird, Tug McGraw, Ron Reed, and Rawly Eastwick.
Lamp pitched 16 seasons in the majors, Moore saved 31 games for the Angels in 1985, Hernandez was the 1984 AL MVP and Cy Young award winner, Caudill saved 36 games for Oakland in 1984, and Burris was a 2-time 15 game winner over a 15-year MLB career. Lerch pitched 11 seasons in the majors, Bird saved 20 games in 1973, and had also had an 11-year career, McGraw totaled 180 saves over his 19-year career, Reed won 146 games and saved 103 in his 19-year career, and Eastwick led the NL in saves in 1975 and 1976. Ya gotta believe.
For a young
college student person enrolled in college in the mid-80s Sutter came to symbolize all the unfortunate trades and ill-conceived signings that came during that terrible period. You thought the rebuild was bad? These guys were trying.
But time brings perspective and death sharpens it. The man had a heck of a career, and all is forgiven. Rest in peace Bruce.