Sutter chats online about Hall election
Closer discusses those that helped him into Cooperstown
Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter fielded fans' questions during a live Web chat Wednesday. Sutter discussed managers and teammates who influenced his 12 years in the Major Leagues, which included a Cy Young Award with the Cubs in 1979 and a World Series with the Cardinals in 1982 before finishing his career in Atlanta.
Bruce Sutter: It's great to be here to chat with my fans. I'm looking forward to hearing your questions. Since I got the call last month letting me know I was inducted, it's been fantastic. A lot of teammates have called me. Friends and family have called. My life has changed a little bit.
wolfram: What effect did Whitey Herzog have on your career? What was the wildest thing you saw him do and what was the best move you saw him pull off?
Sutter: He was the best manager I played for and I learned more about baseball and how to carry myself from Whitey. He's upbeat every day, he can't wait to put the uniform on, and it made us feel that way. We were expected to win and it was fun. As a strategist, his door was always open. You could ask him about strategy and he'd listen. He was open to that. He'd tell you why he did something. He said, "Sometimes you roll the dice." He was honest and secure in his knowledge of baseball. He wasn't offended if you asked him a question.
wolfram: As a player, how would you compare St. Louis and Chicago as baseball towns?
Sutter: They're both the same. They're so close. They're passionate about their teams. Great rivalry between them, and so passionate. The fans support them no matter what. In both towns, the fans expect you to play hard. They realize you may not win every day, but you can play hard every day. I was fortunate to play in each city.
ty126040: Do you have any fond memories of your time with the Braves?
Sutter: The Braves had a lot of good players when I got there. I really enjoyed seeing Dale Murphy and Bob Horner play. It was a chance for me to play in the South. I hurt my arm that first season and I wasn't the same as a person or a player. I just couldn't get healthy. It's miserable when you're at the top of your profession and you know it's over. I loved it so much, though, that we made our home here. My family is in Atlanta and we plan to stay here.
jymbam: You were originally drafted by the Senators in 1970. Why did you wait until 1971 to sign with the Cubs?
Sutter: I was really young in high school. I was just 17 in my senior year. I was a tall lanky guy. My coach thought it would be better for me to go to college because I could fill out there. I went to Old Dominion and I found out quick that I wasn't a great student. I just wanted to play baseball. I left school, and the next summer I pitched for a semi-pro team and a scout named Ralph Dilullo found me and signed me with the Cubs. I filled out to 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds.
jymbam: I see you wore the number 42 for 10 of your 12 seasons as a pro. Your first two seasons with Atlanta you had to wear number 40. How did 42 become available for your final year with the Braves?
Sutter: When I went to the Braves, Rick Mahler wore number 42, and I didn't ask him to change. Then, Rick let me have it my last year, and I had it that season. And I got number 42 because it was given to me by Yosh Kawano, the Cubs clubbie gave it to me as a rookie.
ajnrules: Who would you say is the best active closer?
Sutter: In my mind, Mariano Rivera is the best right now. Trevor Hoffman has had a great run, too. Eric Gagne had a great streak a few years ago, too. And John Smoltz for a few years was as good as anybody. The problem is, I go to bed at 9 p.m. and I don't get to see these guys pitch!
jymbam: Can you tell us how you felt when you surrendered a home run to Mike Schmidt in the 23-22 loss to the Phillies in 1979?
Sutter: It was one of those games, where they scored seven or eight runs right in the first inning. I thought I could have just gone home that day, but I had to be used. Mike Schmidt was one of the greatest players I ever played against. He was an all-around player. When you made a mistake, he could hurt you. I got a ball up to him a little bit. But if you look at that box score, I might have had the best line of any pitcher in that game. Just one run surrendered in 1.2 innings pitched. But I got the loss.
nuremoh: Now that more pitchers use the split-finger, who do you think throws it somewhat as good as yours?
Sutter: The guy who jumps out is Roger Clemens. He's been such a great pitcher. I think he learned it a little bit from Mike Rourke, the same guy that helped me. Jack Morris, Mike Scott -- they threw it well. But Clemens, today without a doubt, has the best one.
aerodave10_yahoo_com: Hello, Mr. Sutter. Could you talk about your playing experiences with John Stuper? He was a former coach of mine, and he loved to regale us with his glory days of the 1982 World Championship team.
Sutter: John is at Yale and he's a great friend of mine. I do his golf tournament. He was a great teammate and he even babysat my kids for me sometimes so my wife and I could go out. I remember a game in Los Angeles where he walked the first five guys, and Whitey took him out. Bob Forsch asked him why he took him out, since he still had a no-hitter going!
ajnrules: Who do you remember as being the toughest hitter you ever faced?
Sutter: There's a few guys. Ted Simmons was tough on me. Schmidt was tough. Gary Carter hit me well. The guys that could hit it over the fence, but when you pitch against Pete Rose or Tony Gwynn, they were great with runners on second. Andre Dawson was tough. Of course, I had trouble with Ryne Sandberg. The next time I faced him, after "the game" he hit another homer off me, I think. It seemed like any right-handed hitter who liked the ball in, I had trouble with. I actually liked facing lefties.
tobyson: I met your son Chad when he was playing for the Staten Island Yankees. How is he doing and what is he up to now?
Sutter: Chad is coaching at Tulane in New Orleans. He's the pitching coach there. He was a catcher, but he learned a lot about pitching. Chad was one of the few catchers who called all his own pitches, and that's almost unheard of. He knows a lot about pitching. The best pitching coach I had was also a former catcher, Mike Rourke.
wolfram: Did Ozzie Smith follow the same law of gravity that the rest of us live with? Did you focus more on ground outs as a pitcher with the defenses you had, or did you go for strikeouts more often?
Sutter: When I played for the Cardinals, we had the best first baseman, Keith Hernandez, Tom Herr at second, Ozzie at short. They were so great. The outfield was great. Ken Oberkfell at third. We had such great team speed. And you can't strike a guy out until you got two strikes, so I was trying to get the batter to hit a groundball, until I got two strikes. Once I had two strikes, I went for the K.
Brad_Graiser: Was there a particular player whom you looked up to for guidance?
Sutter: There were so many players who helped me. Rick Reuschel. Rick Monday, Jose Cardenal. Then in St. Louis, there was Jim Kaat, Gene Tenace, Keith Hernandez. In Atlanta, it was Dale Murphy, Chris Chambliss, Gene Garber. Darold Knowles when I first came up with the Cubs. He would talk to me a lot. He'd be the first one to tell me to keep my chin up after a tough game. Players spend a lot of time together, and you talk a lot about baseball. Your teammates help you get through the tough times.
jdd41_taconic_net: At what age would you find it acceptable for a young pitcher to safely begin throwing a curveball?
Sutter: It's a great question. I think kids will try to imitate what they see on TV. But they need to be shown the right way to throw the curveball and other off-speed pitches. You also need to really monitor their use. The kids are going to try it, so I think it's better to actually show them how to do it than to pretend they won't even try it until a certain age. My Dad monitored how I threw breaking pitches as a kid. He was helping protect me. He knew I was going to experiment, so he showed me how to do it right. The focus shouldn't be all about winning at that young age. It should be about the kids' future. You don't know where these kids might go, so you have to monitor them and make sure they stay safe and that they get better.
tobyson: Which person or persons will not be at your speech, but you wish could be there?
Sutter: Both my parents, certainly. Both are gone now. My high school coach, Fred Martin, who taught me to throw the splitter. The scout who signed me, he's gone now. My in-laws are also gone. But they'll be with me, and looking down on me. They won't be there, but they'll be watching.
marvels: Mr. Sutter, how are you spending your time these days and do you have any desire to get into coaching?
Sutter: Right now I'm building a house, trying to get that done. I have one son who coaches baseball in college, one son coaches high school. I love to go to their games. I love watching baseball. I also have T-ball starting soon, my grandson will be playing.
Sutter: Thanks so much for being with me today. I enjoyed answering your questions. I hope all my friends, family, teammates, and fans can join me in Cooperstown this summer. It was a group effort for me to get here. I hope I see you all in Cooperstown on July 31.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.