Bruce Sutter

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Chicago Cubs, 1976-1980; St. Louis Cardinals,1981-1984; Atlanta Braves, 1985-1988

For nine years, ­­­Bruce Sutter was the dominant reliever in the National League. His manager for four of those seasons, Whitey Herzog, referred to him as "The Sandy Koufax of relievers." The "secret" to Sutter's success was his mastery of the split-finger fastball, a pitch that changed the career of many a pitcher (and hitter) in the 1980s.

Sutter is one of the few ballplayers to make the Hall of Fame largely as an innovator.
Sutter is one of the few ballplayers to
make the Hall of Fame largely as an
innovator. His split-fingered
fastball became the "pitch of the 80s"
-- and a potent weapon ever since.

He was the first to rely on it, having developed the pitch at the suggestion of Cubs minor league pitching coach Fred Martin. He told Sutter to try throwing a forkball, a changeup in which the ball is held with the index and third fingers widely split. Sutter had such huge hands that he was able to turn the forkball into something else: a fastball with a devastating late sink. The "splitter" became a deadly weapon in Sutter's huge right hand.

After fine-tuning the pitch in the minors for three years, Howard Bruce Sutter (born 1953) moved to the big leagues in 1976. In his first five seasons, he saved 133 of the Cubs' 379 victories. In 1979, he tied the National League save record with 37 and won the Cy Young Award, becoming only the third reliever ever to be so recognized.

He led the league in saves again in 1980, and Cardinals manager Herzog sent three players to Chicago for the closer. It was just what the Cards needed; Sutter led the NL in saves again in 1981 and '82. In the latter year, the Cards won the East and swept the Braves in the NLCS (Sutter won Game 2 and saved the finale).

When the Cards toppled the Brewers in seven games in the World Series, Sutter pitched in four games and brought home a win and two saves. He did it with a flourish, too. With his team up by just one run in Game 7, Sutter entered the game and retired all six Brewers he faced.

When Sutter retired in 1988, his 300 career saves were tops in NL history, and behind only Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage for most in major-league history. His 45 saves in 1984 tied the big-league record. In addition to his Cy Young crown, he was Fireman of the Year four times and save leader five times. Chosen for the All-Star Game six times, he earned wins for the National League in 1978 and '79, and saves in '80 and '81.

When he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006, he was the first pitcher ever voted in who had never started a game. His place in baseball history has two financial footnotes: In 1979, he was one of the first stars to test the waters of salary arbitration. The Cubs offered $350,000; Sutter asked for twice that, and won, a move that sent shock waves throughout the sport. And when he became a free agent after the '84 season, the Braves made him the richest player in baseball, with a contract for $10 million over six seasons.

Here are Bruce Setter's major league totals:


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