NEW YORK -- Bruce Sutter was elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, just the fourth relief pitcher given baseball's highest honor.
Sutter, the first pitcher elected to the Hall with no career
starts, was listed on 76.9 percent of the ballots cast by 10-year
members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The
split-finger pioneer collected 400 of a record 520 ballots.
"It was a call that you always hope for, but you never really expect it to happen," Sutter said, adding that he cried when he
received the notification. "I didn't think it would affect me or
hit me as hard as it did."
Players needed 390 votes (75 percent) to gain election. Boston
Red Sox slugger Jim Rice fell 53 short, finishing second with 337
votes (64.8 percent), one ahead of reliever Goose Gossage.
Sutter was on the ballot for the 13th time, the first player
elected so late since Ralph Kiner in 1975. Rice was appearing for
the 12th time and has three years remaining on the writers' ballot.
Gossage was on the ballot for the seventh time.
It might be difficult for Rice and Gossage to gain votes next
year, when Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire appear on
the ballot for the first time. Each voter may select up to 10
The other players in the Hall who primarily were relievers are
Hoyt Wilhelm (elected in 1985), Rollie Fingers (1992) and Dennis
Andre Dawson was fourth with 317 votes, followed by Bert
Blyleven (277), Lee Smith (234), Jack Morris (214), Tommy John
(154) and Steve Garvey (135).
Pete Rose, baseball's career hits leader who has been banned from the game, received 10
write-in votes in what would have been his final year of
eligibility. Stricken from the ballot after going on the banned
list for betting on Cincinnati while managing the team, Rose was
written in on 249 of 7,207 ballots (3.5 percent) over 15 years.
Sutter was a six-time All-Star and the 1979 NL Cy Young Award
winner, compiling 300 saves during a 12-season major career with
the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis and Atlanta. He is 19th on the career saves list. He will enter the hall wearing a Cardinals hat.
He credited Fred Martin, a Cubs' minor league pitching coach,
with teaching him the splitter and Mike Roarke, another Cubs'
coach, with working on it with him.
"It just tickles me still when you see Roger Clemens, as great
as he is, throw a split-finger and the hitter just swings and
misses. They don't see that ball that well," Sutter said. "Jack
Morris threw an awful good one and Mike Scott. There's a lot of
great pitchers over the years that I think that pitch definitely
helped their career."
Sutter said fellow relievers Gossage and Smith also should be in
"I just think sometimes that the voters try to compare us with
the starting pitchers," he said. "We can't compete with their
statistics, their innings or their strikeouts. I think if you
compare us against each other, I think you'll see we're all pretty
equal. ... Without us, it's tough to win."
When he first appeared on the ballot in 1994, Sutter received
109 votes (23.9 percent). His percentage rose to 66.7 last year,
when Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg were elected and Sutter fell 43
"Were my stats good enough? I didn't know," Sutter said. "You
just kind of keep hoping."
Rice's percentage increased to 64.8 from 59.5 last year, and
Gossage's rose to 64.6 from 55.2, which bodes well for the pair.
The highest percentage of votes gained by a player who wasn't
elected in a later year was 63.4 by Gil Hodges in 1983, his final
time of the ballot.
Orel Hershiser (58 votes) and Albert Belle (40) were the only
players among the 14 first-time candidates to receive 5 percent,
meaning he will remain on the ballot next year. Among those dropped
were Will Clark (23 votes), Dwight Gooden (17), Willie McGee (12)
and Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (5).
Sutter will be inducted into the Hall during ceremonies on July
30 in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Veterans Committee doesn't vote this
year, but a special Negro leagues and pre-Negro leagues selection
committee meets Feb. 27 in Tampa, Fla.