Earlier this week Darron Sutton, son of former MLB pitcher Don Sutton, announced via Twitter that his father had passed away. The Hall of Fame pitcher had been in-and-around baseball the vast majority of his life, only receding from announcing and public life in the last year, as he courageously battled cancer.
Another rags-to-riches story, Sutton was born to share-croppers of humble means. His parents were teenagers when he was born (his mother 15, his father 18), and moved the family to Florida in search of a better and hopefully more prosperous life.
In high school, Don Sutton was a multi-sport athlete, and earned all-state baseball honors for the state of Florida his junior and senior year of high school. Being spurned by schools with a bigger sports platform, Sutton ended up at small liberal arts college Whittier, where the Dodgers somehow stumbled upon him.
After a brief stint on-the-farm, Los Angeles promoted him to the big leagues, where he joined their 1966 rotation that included future Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Being called up at the age of 21, Sutton spent 16 years in Dodgers’ blue, where he pitched the vast majority of his MLB innings.
Over the course of those 16 seasons, Sutton earned his way to four All Star games, en route to being the Dodgers’ franchise leader in innings pitched, strikeouts, shut outs and wins (for whatever that’s worth). He pitched the Dodgers to two NL pennants, though he did not get a start in the Fall Classic in his rookie season. He got his first World Series start eight years later when LA faced Oakland in the World Series.
Sutton’s durability is as impressive as his statline. Sutton never hit the injured list once, nor did he ever miss his turn in the rotation in 756 big league starts. Only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan started more games in their career, and Sutton’s only injury came at the end of the 1981 season, when he left his final start with a fracture in his knee.
Sutton was declared a free agent after the 1980 season, and ended up signing with the Houston Astros for two seasons, then with the Brewers for three seasons. In 1985 Milwaukee traded Sutton, who ended up back on the West Coast, this time with the Oakland Athletics. The following season, Oakland traded him to the Angels where he notched his 300th victory, a major milestone for any MLB pitcher.
He ended his career with Los Angeles, coming back for his age-43 season in 1988, though the swan-song ended prematurely, as he was released in August. It was a disappointing end to Sutton’s career, especially when LA went on to win the 1988 World Series.
Sutton’s playing career ended in 1988, but he stayed in the Dodgers extended family, splitting time as a broadcaster for both LA and Atlanta, back when the Braves were regularly on TBS. He stayed in the broadcast both until 2019, having worked for LA, Atlanta, and even the Washington Nationals.
Sutton’s repertoire of above average pitches, and h’s ability to place those pitches where he wanted led to a lengthy and successful Hall of Fame career. He was well-liked within the baseball community, and will be missed in the broadcast booth.