LOS ANGELES (AP) — Don Sutton, a Hall of Fame pitcher who was a stalwart of the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation spanning an era from Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela, died Tuesday. He was 75.
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, said Sutton died at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, after a long struggle with cancer. The Atlanta Braves, for whom Sutton was a long-time broadcaster, said he died in his sleep.
A four-time All-Star, Sutton had a career record of 324-256 and an ERA of 3.26 while pitching for the Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, California Angels and the Dodgers again in 1988, his final season.
The durable Sutton never missed a turn in the rotation in 756 big league starts. Only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan made more starts than Sutton, who never landed on the injured list in his 23-year career.
A master of changing speeds and pitch location, Sutton recorded just one 20-win season but earned 10 or more wins in every year except 1983 and 1988. Of his victories, 58 were shutouts, five were one-hitters and 10 were two-hitters. The right-hander is seventh on the career strikeout list with 3,574.
Sutton ranks third all-time in games started and seventh in innings pitched (5,282 1/3). He worked at least 200 innings in 20 of his first 21 seasons, with only the strike-shortened 1981 season interrupting his streak.
"He worked as hard as anyone I've ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect ... and he took me to work a lot," his son, Daron, wrote on Twitter. "For all these things, I am very grateful."
Donald Howard Sutton was born April 2, 1945, in Clio, Alabama, the son of sharecroppers. The family moved to northern Florida, where Sutton was a three-sport star in high school who showed an affinity for baseball as a youngster. He played the sport in junior college before the Dodgers signed him as a free agent in September 1964, months before the first MLB draft.
After going 23-7 during one season in the minors, Sutton won a spot in the Dodgers' rotation in 1966. He made his big league debut for the defending World Series champions on April 14, 1966, and earned his first victory four days later.
Sutton immediately found himself in a rotation with Koufax, Don Drysdale and Claude Osteen as the fourth starter. Sutton recorded 209 strikeouts that season, the highest total for a rookie since 1911.
He helped the Dodgers win National League pennants in 1974, 1977 and 1978.
"Today we lost a great ballplayer, a great broadcaster and, most importantly a great person," Dodgers president Stan Kasten said. "I was privileged to have worked with Don in both Atlanta and Washington, and will always cherish our time spent together."