Bruce Sutter didn’t leave baseball the way he wanted, booed relentlessly when injuries sapped his talent. That doesn’t matter any more.
Eighteen years after he hung up his spikes for good, Sutter was inducted Sunday into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I am in awe,” said Sutter, who joined Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley as the only relief pitchers in the Hall. “I wish I could turn back the clock and play one more game.
“When I got the call in January, it brought closure to a baseball career that did not end how I hoped it would,” said Sutter, whose last four years in Atlanta were filled with taunts after rotator-cuff problems eventually forced him to retire with 300 saves after 12 years in the major leagues. “It answered the question: ‘Do you belong?’ The thought of having my name in is truly an honor and humbling experience.”
Although Sutter was the lone player selected by the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America, he was part of the largest class of inductees in Hall of Fame history. Seventeen players and executives from baseball’s segregated past, all of them deceased, were also inducted, including Effa Manley, the first woman to be so honored.
“It’s a long time coming,” said Rachel Robinson, the wife of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier 59 years ago. “We’re very, very proud of the Negro Leaguers.”
Sutter also shared the dais with J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Tracy Ringolsby, national columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, and Ford C. Frick Award winner Gene Elston, former broadcast voice of Houston baseball.
The first speaker of the day was 94-year-old Buck O’Neil, who received a standing ovation before and after he spoke. O’Neil, one of the driving forces in the creation of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., received much support to be part of the class from the Negro Leagues, but fell short in the voting.