When Fred Martin, a minor league pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs, taught a struggling young Bruce Sutter the split-finger fastball, it was dismissed as a gimmick, a variation on a fork ball. Sutter mastered the pitch, transforming it from a novelty to one of the most common pitches in baseball.
The split-finger, also known as a splitter or a cutter, will suddenly drop as it approaches the plate in a motion similar to a fastball. Sutter brought the pitch with him when he was called up in 1976, and it was a big reason he won the Cy Young Award three years later, in 1979.
He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1981, and he made history by recording the game’s final out in Game 7 of the 1982 World Series.
“I am deeply saddened by the news of Bruce Sutter’s passing,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. Bruce rose from being a non-drafted free agent to the pinnacle of baseball by inventing the split-fingered fastball. That pitch not only propelled him to the Major Leagues, but also earned him a Cy Young Award with the Cubs and a World Series championship with the 1982 Cardinals.
Bruce was a key figure in foreseeing how the use of relievers would develop and was the first pitcher to be inducted into the Hall of Fame without ever having started a game.
He was named to the All-Star team in each of his first five seasons in the major leagues, and by the time of his retirement, he had 300 saves, placing third all-time.
Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. issued a statement in which he expressed his condolences to the Sutter family on behalf of the Cardinals organisation and all baseball fans. He attracted a huge following in St. Louis thanks to his work. To the Sutter family, I would like to send my sincere condolences. Bruce was beloved by the crowd in St. Louis and elsewhere, and he will be remembered for his 1982 World Series-clinching save and distinctive split-fingered pitch. He altered the function of the late-inning reliever, truly changing the game.
Sutter became the first pitcher who had never started a game to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Sutter, who had just received a cancer diagnosis, passed away Thursday night in a Cartersville, Georgia, hospice, surrounded by his loved ones.
Sutter’s son Chad, a former player and current coach on the Tulane staff, said, “All our father ever wanted to be remembered for was being a great teammate, but he was so much more than that.” In addition to spending 50 years as our mother’s husband, he was also a wonderful father, grandfather, and friend. Only his love and passion for his family can compare to his love and passion for baseball.