It's hard to believe that it has already been five years. But on this date in 2006, former Cardinals closer Bruce Sutter was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, NY.
Sutter was named on 76.9 percent of baseball writers' ballots. It takes 75 percent to earn enshrinement amongst baseball's greatest players. Earlier in his eligibility it didn't look like Bruuuuuuuce had much of a chance. He didn't crack 30 percent of the vote in his first four seasons on the ballot. But he saw his totals increase over the years and in 2006 he became the first pitcher who never started a game in the majors to make it to the Hall.
Sutter saved exactly 300 games over the course of his 12 season career which was cut tragically short by arm problems. He led the National League in saves five times, the Rolaids Reliever of the Year Award four times and the Cy Young once.
But the most remarkable thing about Sutter's career was how much harder he worked for saves than his modern counterparts. Today closers usually come in at the start of the ninth inning with the bases empty. Sutter often pitched two innings or more. He'd come into games in a seventh inning jam, work his way out of it, then stick around to finish off the game. No wonder his arm didn't last.
Five times he pitched more than 100 innings in a season and in a sixth season he missed the century mark by an inning and a third.
Sutter, a six-time All-Star, struck out more than 100 batters in a season earlier in his career. But later he became a pitch to contact sort of hurler, perfecting the sinking split-split finger fastball that coaxed grounders by the bundle.
Sutter started his career with the Cubs and pitched there for five years before being traded to the division rival Cardinals in 1980 for Leon Durham, Ken Reitz and Ty Waller. He pitched four years for St. Louis, 1981-84, saving 127 games with a 2.72 ERA, before finishing his career with Atlanta.