Tuesday, January 19, 2021

RIP Don Sutton

So sorry to hear of the passing of Hall of Famer, Don Sutton.  He was 75.  As a Dodger fan growing up I was always a big fan.  Koufax and Drysdale got all the attention, but Don Sutton holds many Dodger pitching records and quietly finished his career with over 300 wins.  With the way the game is played today I don’t think you’ll see many 300 game winners from now on.  

I'm sure that's what most articles will focus on.  But that’s just part of his career.  Don got into broadcasting after he hung up his cleats and became one of the best, most accomplished play-by-play men in the game.  Lots of former players become announcers but most become analysts.  They sit back and offer observations and insights when they occur.  That’s not an easy job as is evidenced by how many are terrible at it.   But play-by-play is a much tougher assignment.  You control the broadcast and have the added responsibility of describing the action and keeping the patter going.  Especially on radio.  I can think of maybe a dozen who mastered that art, and along with Bob Uecker I think Don Sutton was the best.  

He had a distinctive style, very relaxed and sooooo easy to listen to.  For years he’s called Atlanta Braves games with partner, Jim Powell and for my money they were in the top five of team broadcasts.  They had a great chemistry, Powell is superb, and they were fun and informative to listen to no matter the score, no matter who was winning.  

I have the MLB app and listen to a lot of out-of-town broadcasts when I drive around LA (back when I was driving around).  If there’s a Braves game on I usually go right to it and more importantly, stay with it.  And trust me, I could care less about the Braves.  

Don’s greatest gift as a broadcaster was his ability to really communicate one-to-one with his listeners.  When you were driving in your car he was talking directly to you.  It’s a skill surprisingly few announcers of any sport have mastered.  Don had it in spades.  

Off the air he was just as easy going and approachable, only a little more candid.  He had a sly sense of humor, told great stories, and was always generous in sharing information with other broadcasters (like me).   I always thought he should have been the successor to Vin Scully of the Dodgers.  Or, for that matter, the voice of the Angels.  He played for them as well.  

He will be missed.  Thanks for the wins, friendship, and keeping me company all those hours on crowded freeways. 


Zack Bennett said...

I'm a huge Braves fan, and Don was absolutely superb. I looked forward to hearing him & Jim every night as I was driving around doing food deliveries or whatever I was up to. He was so damn funny on the air, and you're right, his ability to convey the action to the listener was second-to-none. The Braves split their radio broadcasts as such: the main PxP man (Powell or Ingram) does Innings 1-3; he swaps places with his analyst (Sutton or Joe Simpson) in Innings 4-6, and then they swap places again for 7-9 & beyond. So, Sutton would do – at most – 3 innings of PxP a night, but you could count on that to be the most entertaining and insightful hour of baseball you'd ever hear. Every night.

This is NOT the Don I was looking forward to losing this week.

VincentS said...

Another fine tribute, Ken. Being a Yankees fan I was very selective about the Dodgers I liked (Tommy Lasorda drove me crazy, Steve Garvey was so "perfect" I wanted to slap him, and I always thought Bill Russell and Davey Lopes were overrated) and Don Sutton was always one of my favorites. A terrific pitcher and a class act. So sorry. And so young.

Mike Barer said...

Sorry to read about Sutton's passing.

Dana King said...

Like you, I was a fan of Sutton as a player and broadcaster. he just seemed like a nice guy. Thanks for confirming. I'm sorry to see him go.

Matt said...

I heard an amazing stat this morning.

Sutton had 324 wins, never missed a start and the only year he didn’t have 200 wins was a strike shortened year.

Robert Ryder said...

My wife and I often watch the old Match Game show to relax. Don Sutton was on the panel on some shows from 1976 we saw recently, and he was quite good. It's a shame he's gone too soon (yes, I think of 75 years old as "too soon").

Mike Bloodworth said...

Don Sutton was one of my favorite players when I still cared about baseball.
I can't remember ever hearing him do play-by-play, but I remember his debut as a sportscaster on KNBC 4 here in Los Angels. They usually put new people on the weekend shift to try them out.
Don was AWFUL. I suppose some of it was nerves. But he had that "deer in the headlights" look about him. He stumbled over copy. You almost felt sorry for him. Needless to say he didn't last very long behind the desk. Thankfully, his performance as a pitcher cancelled out the negative.

They say these things come in "threes." First it was Tommy Lasorda now Sutton. Who will be the next Dodger to go?


sanford said...

Sad news. He was here in Milwaukee for a couple of years. We went to the 3rd game of the playoffs between the Brewers and Angels in which he pitched. He did a great job in that game and sparked the Brewers from being down 0-2 and winning the series. It was too bad Fingers was injured they probably would have won the World Series. His son Daron was the Brewers announcer for 5 year and I thought he was very good. Luckily we got Brad Anderson who is just as good or better. He was suspended by Arizona for insubordination. He is still young. It is possible he doesn't want a full time announcing job but I think he should be working some where. I didn't get to hear Don so I don't know how Daron compares. He did work with Don a year or two in Atlanta.

VP81955 said...

Don worked alongside Bob Carpenter in the early years of the Nats when the team was mediocre, and he was quite good, teaching baseball and its intricacies to a market MLB had ignored for decades.

Daddy Background said...

My family visited Disneyland in 1977. We saw a couple of preseason games and then the home opener - Dodgers versus the Giants. We sat in the left field bleachers. Frank Sinatra sang the national anthem off-key. Robert Redford was spotted with his feet up on the first base dugout.

Don Sutton was the pitcher for opening day, throwing a Rawlings ball, the first time a Rawlings ball was used in the Majors. Maybe the ball was headed for the Hall of Fame. But Sutton's VERY FIRST PITCH was hit way over the right field fence. My father, who lived and breathed Dodger Blue, slumped in the seat and groaned, "Oh boy". The worst start of the season he could have foreseen.

It was the only run the Giants scored. The Dodgers (and Don Sutton) got the win, 5-1.

Forever a memory. RIP Don.

Jeff Baker said...

He did an appearance on a silly but fun Saturday morning kid's show "Wonderbug" (live-action about a magic supercar.) I was seventeen when it aired; I had no idea who he was!