Don Sutton, Hall of Fame Right-Hander, Is Dead at 75

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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 on Tuesday, although his son Daron Sutton 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.

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.

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

Sutton also pitched for the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels and Oakland A’s before retiring in 1988. 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.”

ImageSutton pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1982 World Series. Sutton pitched for five teams in his long major league career.
Credit…Associated Press

Sutton — whose major league career began as part of a Dodger pitching rotation that also included Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale — won 20 games only once (he had a 21-10 record in 1976). But he is tied for 14th place in career wins with Nolan Ryan, and ranked seventh in both strikeouts, with 3,574, and innings, with 5,282.1.

He 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,” 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 on 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.

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.

As a rookie, he had a 12-12 record with a 2.99 earned run average 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.

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

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,” 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.”


Credit…Mark Avery/Associated Press

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