Cards All-Time Top 40 – Bruce Sutter #15

The Top 40 countdown of the greatest St. Louis Cardinals of all time continues with their star closer from the early 1980's, Bruce Sutter.

Howard Bruce Sutter

The Basics



Total Yrs

Yrs in StL













The Awards

Hall of Fame

Retired #

World Champ



Cy Young

Gold Glove








Note: All stats and awards listed are for years as a Cardinal only.
Sutter's career stats available from

Voter Comments

Rob Rains (17): Despite pitching for only four seasons in St. Louis, Sutter became one of the most beloved Cardinals. His strikeout of Gorman Thomas to clinch victory in the 1982 World Series remains one of the greatest moments in franchise history.

Sutter and his split-fingered fastball produced 127 saves from 1981 to 1984, including having much of the 1981 season wiped out by a player's strike. He led the National League three times in saves in those four years, including many in which he pitched three innings to close out the Cardinals' victory.

Jerry Modene (17): A Cardinal only four seasons, but he was nevertheless the most dominant closer of his time, and his election to the Hall of Fame is well-deserved. Personally, I think he was head-and-shoulders better than Goose Gossage, a great closer in his own right.

Old "Engine 42" can in fact be credited with changing the face of the game in the way he was used. He was the first great relief pitcher to be used more-or-less only in save situations (Dennis Eckersley took it a step further when Tony La Russa started using Eck only in the ninth inning, which may have been a step too far).

I've always wondered, though: Whitey Herzog blames the end of Sutter's career on his not being used right by the Braves commencing in 1985, but how much of it was caused by Sutter's severe overuse in 1984, when he pitched 122 2/3 innings in 63 games (a huge increase over the 89 1/3 IP and 48 games of 1983)? I can remember the final game of the 1984 season, when Sutter had a chance to set the new NL record for saves (he had 45 at that point), but was so gassed he couldn't do it and lost the game when the Cardinal catcher (whoever it was) threw a ball into right field to end the game and the season.

All that aside, Sutter is a good argument against those who degrade the value of a great closer. There's no question in my mind that the Cardinals, who were otherwise a very ordinary team, would not have won the 1982 World Series without him.

Ray Mileur (15): In just four seasons, Bruce Sutter picked up 127 saves for St. Louis, including an amazing 45 saves in 1984. A member of the 1982 World Champion Cardinals, he is credited with two saves, including the dramatic Series-clinching save in Game 7, good enough to win the National League Babe Ruth Award. (The Babe Ruth Award is given annually to the World Series MVP by the New York area BBWAA chapter.)

A two-time All-Star (1981-84) in a Cardinals uniform, Sutter won three NL Rolaids Relief awards (1981, 82, 84) while playing for St. Louis. His number 42, which he wore throughout the career, was theoretically retired by the Cardinals last season (I'm still scratching my head over that one). He shares that number with Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson whose number was retired by MLB in 1997.

Sutter was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 and his Hall of Fame plaque depicts him wearing a Cardinals cap.

Brian Walton (22): I guess I will have to spoil the party this time. I have said it before and I will say it again: Bruce Sutter should have gone into the Hall of Fame as a Chicago Cub, not as a St. Louis Cardinal (or Atlanta Brave). Alternatively, he could have had no insignia on his plaque at all, an approach used for many other Hall of Famers who didn't call one team their home.

Don't get me wrong - it is not my intention to diminish Sutter's accomplishments in his four seasons in St. Louis in any way. Instead, I reiterate my case as to why his Chicago results were even more impressive and therefore why Sutter should be on the Cubs' list instead of this one.

Sutter was born and bred as a Cub, became a star with them and was there longer than he was a Cardinal. He made four of his six All-Star Game appearances as a Cub and won his only Cy Young Award while pitching in the Windy City.

Sutter saved more games, regular season plus post-season, as a Cub than as a Cardinal. Including his three years in Atlanta after he left the Cardinals as a free agent, Sutter actually spent twice as many years wearing major league uniforms other than St. Louis'.

I also disagree with the Cardinals' decision to retire Sutter's number last summer, even though it was clearly the sleeves out of their vests given that Robinson's number 42 was already shelved. As this list will document, I believe there are at least 21 Cardinals players greater than Sutter, over half of whom have not received retired number recognition.

Voter Comments Key: Voter (Individual Ranking); NR = Not Rated

Master List: To see our entire list of the greatest 40 Cardinals players of all-time as they are unveiled daily, click here.

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