Bruce Sutter, a Hall of Fame reliever and 1979 Cy Young winner, has died. He was 69.
The Baseball Hall of Fame said Sutter died Thursday in Cartersville, Georgia. The Sutter family did not provide a cause of death in their statement, which was released Friday.
“Our father always wanted to be remembered as a great teammate, but he was much more than that,” he said. “He was also a great husband to our mother for 50 (years), he was a great father and grandfather and he was a great friend. His love and passion for baseball can only be surpassed by his love and passion for his family.”
Sutter is considered one of the first pitchers to throw a split-finger fastball. The right-hander played 12 seasons in the major leagues, was a six-time All-Star and finished with 300 career saves.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he was “deeply saddened” by the news.
“Bruce was the first pitcher to reach the Hall of Fame without starting a game, and he was one of the key figures who foreshadowed how the use of relievers would evolve,” Manfred said in a statement. “Bruce will be remembered as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of two of our most storied franchises.”
Sutter debuted with the Chicago Cubs in 1976. The reliever won the Cy Young in 1979 in a season in which he had 37 saves, a 2.22 ERA and 110 strikeouts.
He joined the St. Louis Cardinals and played for them from 1981 to 1984. There, he won a World Series in 1982, finishing Game 7 against the Brewers with a strikeout.
“Being Cardinal of St. Louis was an honor that I treasured deeply,” the Sutter family statement says. “To the Cardinals, his teammates and most importantly the greatest fans in all of sports, we thank you for all the love and support over the years.”
His last save, No. 300, came with the Atlanta Braves in 1988. Sutter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
“Bruce was a fan favorite during his years in St. Louis and in the years that followed, and he will always be remembered for his decisive save in the 1982 World Series and his trademark spread-finger pitch,” said owner-director Cardinals executive Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “He was a true pioneer in the game, changing the role of the late-inning reliever.”
Sutter was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in January 1953. The Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that he learned the split-finger fastball from a Cubs minor league pitching instructor while recovering from surgery in the right elbow.
The Cardinals said Sutter is survived by his wife, three sons, a daughter-in-law and six grandchildren.
“I feel like a brother passed away,” Hall of Famer Jim Kaat said. “I got to know Bruce more deeply than any other teammate. We spend a lot of time together, and as it happens when their careers end, they go their separate ways. But we stayed in touch and considered each other great friends.”