On June 18, 1986, a 15-year-old boy sat in the upper deck at Anaheim Stadium and witnessed history as a 41-year-old right-handed pitcher from Clio, Al., pitched a three-hit, complete-game victory over the Texas Rangers. The hurler became the eighteenth player in MLB history to win 300 career games.
Don Sutton joined an elite fraternity that summer evening as his teammates and teenage son, Daron, celebrated together along the third-base line following a historic achievement.
One the top 10 greatest moments I've witnessed in-person at Angels (Anaheim) Stadium in my lifetime…
— Halo Life ⚾ (@_HaloLife) January 20, 2021
Three months later, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to witness Don Sutton outduel a young Roger Clemens in Game 4 of the 1986 ALCS at the same ballpark. The Angels won, putting them one win away from their first World Series appearance. Of course, history would side with the Boston Red Sox in that series.
Sutton would go on to finish his illustrious career two years later with 324 wins. He was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
On Tuesday evening, Sutton passed away in his sleep at his Rancho Mirage, Calif., home at the age of 75. Sutton was a model of consistency during a 23-year playing career that included only one 20-win season and four All-Star appearances in the mid-1970s. Like Nolan Ryan, who also finished with 324 career victories, Sutton never won a Cy Young award but finished top-five in voting from 1972 through 1976. The prime of his career came as a member of Tommy Lasorda’s Los Angeles Dodgers. He remains the only non-Brooklyn Dodger to have their number retired by the franchise.
Sutton would pitch in four World Series, three with the Dodgers and one with the Brewers, but always wound up on the losing end. He would move on from the Dodgers and spend the second half of his career playing with the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, and California Angels throughout the 1980s before returning to the Dodgers for his swan song season in 1988. Sutton would be released in August of 1988 earned his first and only World Series ring as a member of that championship team. Today, Sutton ranks 14th all-time in career victories, seventh in career strikeouts and innings pitched, and third in games started. Ironically, only Cy Young himself started more games than Sutton and Nolan Ryan, the two players to never win the award named in his honor.
After his playing career, Don Sutton became most recognizable by the next generation of baseball fans as a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves covering games on TBS. He was a member of the Braves’ broadcast team for most of the next 30 seasons with a brief stint with the Washington Nationals team for two seasons. Sutton was a regular attendee at the annual Baseball Hall of Fame inductions every summer in Cooperstown, N.Y., and sadly joins fellow members Tom Seaver, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Phil Niekro, Lou Brock, Al Kaline, and Tommy Lasorda as those who have died since the beginning of 2020.
Baseball has lost more than another Hall of Fame player. The game has lost a great personality and representative of kindness and all that is great about our National Pastime. Sutton’s impact will live on for many fans of the game for generations to come.
Follow B.J. Martin on Twitter @_HaloLife
Main Image Credit: