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Dodgers Dugout: The 25 greatest Dodgers of all time, No. 18: Don Sutton

Don Sutton in 1977.
(Associated Press)
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Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell as we continue the top-25 countdown.

Readers voted in droves, submitting 15,212 ballots by email, Twitter and Facebook. Voters were asked for their top 10 Dodgers in order from 1 to 10, with first place receiving 12 points, second place nine points, third place eight, all the way down to one point for 10th place.

The last time we did this was in 2018, and there were some changes in the rankings.

So, without further ado:

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The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 18: DON SUTTON (10,521 points)
2018 rank: 18th

How many great pitchers have the Dodgers had? So many that their all-time leader in wins and strikeouts finishes 18th in a list of greatest Dodgers, trailing four other pitchers.

Sutton pitched for the Dodgers from 1966 to 1980 and again in 1988. He leads the franchise with 233 wins.

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Sutton is one of those guys who put together a remarkable string of good seasons but none that were truly great. He led the league in ERA once (in 1980, 2.20) and in shutouts once (nine in 1972) but never finished higher than third in Cy Young voting and received Cy Young votes in just five seasons (from 1972 to 1976) of his 16 with the Dodgers.

None of that is meant to downplay Sutton. Part of putting together a winning team is finding guys who will give you good season after good season. Sutton did just that for the Dodgers, finishing with double-digit wins each year from 1966 to 1980 and with an ERA better than the league average in 10 of those 15 years.

Donald Howard Sutton was born on April 2, 1945 in Clio, Alab. His dad, Charlie, was 18; his mom, Lillian, was 15. Don played Little League baseball and always wanted to be the pitcher. He was taught how to throw a curveball by his sixth-grade teacher, Henry Roper, who was a former minor leaguer.

The family eventually moved to Florida, and Sutton played for Tate High. In his junior year, he led the team to a state title by pitching a 13-inning shutout in the championship game. He went to Gulf Coast community college, where he struck out 130 batters in 90 innings. He pitched in the National Baseball Congress Tournament in Wichita and was named to the all-tournament team with another pitcher: Tom Seaver.

Scouts from nine teams were interested in Sutton, and he later recounted in interviews that Dodgers scout Monty Basgall impressed him the most because of his humble demeanor. Sutton signed with the Dodgers for $15,000.

Sutton often gets overlooked when people talk about great Dodgers, but it doesn’t bother him. “I am 100% convinced that if I had spent most of my career anywhere but with the Dodgers, I would not have the record, not have the Hall of Fame, not have the life I enjoyed,’” Sutton told The Times’ Bill Plaschke in 2017. “All those Dodger people gave me all of that. It’s my alma mater, and all the good I had in baseball came from them.”

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Sutton was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and had his number (20) retired by the Dodgers the same year.

“I don’t have any fantasy or thought of being the best pitcher in Dodger history,” Sutton said in 2017. “But I would like to think I got everything I could get out of what I was gifted with.”

Sutton died on Jan. 18, 2021 at the age of 75.

Previously

No. 19: Orel Hershiser

No. 20: Mike Piazza

No. 21: Don Newcombe

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No. 22: Mookie Betts

No. 23 Dazzy Vance

No. 24: Kirk Gibson

No. 25: Eric Gagné

Urías update

MLB put Julio Urías on administrative leave while it investigates the allegations against him.

“The Dodgers take all allegations of the kind in this case very seriously, and we do not condone or excuse any acts of domestic violence,” the team said in a statement. “We are fully cooperating with MLB’s investigation and support MLB’s and the Commissioner’s enforcement of the policy.”

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Manager Dave Roberts said, “Obviously these are very serious circumstances. I would expect it to take the time needed to make sure that the right actions are taken. So I don’t know how long it will take, but I think we’re expecting it to take some time.”

No Urías bobblehead

The Dodgers also announced Wednesday that their scheduled Urías Team Mexico bobblehead promotion for Sept. 21 has been canceled. The team instead will give away other “premium bobbleheads” to the first 30,000 fans in attendance.

And finally

Don Sutton gives his Hall of Fame induction speech. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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