A moment to remember for Sutter family

A moment to remember for Sutter family

ATLANTA -- With the call that confirmed that his father had finally gotten the call to the Hall, Ben Sutter burst out of Roswell High School and raced home to enjoy a celebration that he and his entire family had waited 13 years to enjoy.

Racing down the rural Georgia roads to his father's home in Kennesaw, Sutter eluded detection from the police with the same type of success that his father had enjoyed while pioneering his way toward the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I'm glad I didn't get pulled over," said the 26-year-old Ben, who is a special-education teacher at the high school. "But they had every chance to get me."

Likewise, the select voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America had 12 previous chances to elect a deserving Bruce Sutter into the Hall of Fame. But it wasn't until Tuesday afternoon that they tallied enough votes to make him the fourth reliever in history to be elected to Cooperstown.

Sutter, who registered 300 saves and finished 512 games during 12 big-league seasons, received 76.9 percent of the vote in balloting by the BBWAA (75 percent is the minimum required for induction). The man credited with perfecting the since popularized split-finger fastball is the only pitcher never to have started a game to have gained election.

It was one he wasn't sure would ever come. With this being his 13th year of eligibility, time was running out. After 15 years, a player's name is removed from the ballot and the only chance for election is through the Hall of Fame's veterans committee.

"I guess 13 is a lucky number for me," the Hall's newest inductee said during a press conference at Turner Field on Tuesday night. "I did get turned down 12 times. You don't expect things to change."

During many of those 12 previous years, when he hadn't received a congratulatory call, Sutter keep himself busy by going hunting. But the increase in votes he received last year, combined with a recent phone call he received from veteran St. Louis journalist Rick Hummel, led him to believe it might be best to stay close to the phone this year.

Fortunately for him and each of the family members who were huddled in the home, the phone call they had awaited for 13 years finally was received around 1 p.m. ET. As soon as the 212 (New York City) area code appeared on the caller identification screen, all knew that this year was indeed different.

  2006 Hall of Fame
  voting results
The complete vote (520 ballots, 390 to gain election, 26 to remain on ballot):
 Player  Votes   %
 Bruce Sutter  400  76.9%
 Jim Rice  337  64.8%
 Rich Gossage  336  64.6%
 Andre Dawson  317  61.0%
 Bert Blyleven  277  53.3%
 Lee Smith  234  45.0%
 Jack Morris  214  41.2%
 Tommy John  154  29.6%
 Steve Garvey  135  26.0%
 Alan Trammell   92  17.7%
 Dave Parker   75  14.4%
 Dave Concepcion   65  12.5%
 Don Mattingly   64  12.3%
 Orel Hershiser   58  11.2%
 Dale Murphy   56  10.8%
 Albert Belle   40   7.7%
 Will Clark   23   4.4%
 Dwight Gooden   17   3.3%
 Willie McGee   12   2.3%
 Ozzie Guillen    5   1.0%
 Hal Morris    5   1.0%
 Gary Gaetti    4   0.8%
 John Wetteland    4   0.8%
 Rick Aguilera    3   0.6%
 Gregg Jefferies    2   0.4%
 Doug Jones    2   0.4%
 Walt Weiss    1   0.2%
 Gary DiSarcina    0   0.0%
 Alex Fernandez    0   0.0%
  Sights and sounds:

• Sutter introduced: Watch | Listen
• Hall of Fame Show: 350K
• Sutter highlights: 350K
Sutter on MLB Radio
Sutter conference call
• Hall president Petroskey makes the
  announcement: Watch | Listen
• Petroskey on MLB Radio:
   Watch | Listen
"He wasn't on the phone five seconds and we already had gotten the thumbs up," Sutter's oldest son, Josh, said. "It was one of the most wonderful feelings I've had."

With Josh, 32, another son, Chad, 28, and his wife Jamye by his side, Sutter received the congratulatory call and then shed a few joyful tears. It's something Chad, a baseball coach at Tulane University, had never seen, and an emotion that their mother said she'd only seen three times.

But these tears were different from those that had been shed in 1983, when his father died, or in 1988, when after three shoulder surgeries, the dominant closer was forced to retire at the age of 35.

"It's a special feeling ... I don't know what else to say," Sutter said. "So far it's been a hectic day for me, but a good day. I don't mind."

After gaining election, Sutter spent much of Tuesday afternoon being interviewed by media outlets from around the country. It wasn't until he boarded a plane headed to New York late Tuesday evening that he really had time to reflect upon what had happened.

While on the plane, he knew he was going to think about how special this moment would have been for his father. At the same time, he'd reminisce about those countless times during his youth that the two of them would find time to enjoy numerous different athletic activities together.

"It didn't matter when he got home from work, we'd go out there and play catch, or we'd shoot foul shots or we'd throw the football," Sutter said. "I'm just sorry he's not here to see this."

While much gratitude is owed to his father and mother, who passed away in 1987, Sutter also took time on Tuesday to think about how much Fred Martin meant to his career. Unfortunately, the former Cubs Minor League pitching coach passed in 1979 and never got to see all that happened after he taught the young hurler how to throw the split-finger fastball.

But Sutter did have time to call Mike Roarke, who served as his pitching coach with both the Cubs and the Cardinals. In addition, some of his time on Tuesday afternoon was spent receiving phone calls from fellow Hall of Famers Don Sutton and Gary Carter. He also received messages from former teammates like Bob Forsch and Gene Tenace, who both routinely saw the Hall of Fame closer enter a game in the seventh inning and not exit until the game was won.

It seemed wherever he turned, he was being congratulated. In other words, it was a much better day than those disappointing ones he'd endured over the previous 12 years.

Trying to keep his emotions in check, Sutter began Tuesday by taking out the garbage. A short time later he and Chad went to breakfast and then ran some errands, one of which included a stop at the cigar store. Obviously, there was at least hope this day would be different.

After returning home, Bruce, Josh and Chad headed to the basement and chose to quell their anxiety by watching "Blade 2." Then, moments after Jamye and Chad's wife, Kasey, joined the men, the phone rang, and all soon learned the moment had finally arrived.

Knowing their mother never comes to the basement for any reason, the kids have reason to believe the baseball gods were at work again.

"Every player would love to be in the Hall of Fame, but you realize not everybody can be in the Hall of Fame," Sutter said. "There's going to be a lot of players that don't get in. You try to keep things in perspective. It's like being the closer. You try not to get too high and not get too low, because it's out of your hands."

Sutter's election came just two days after he celebrated his 53rd birthday. It's a birthdate that he shares with the late Elvis Presley.

But on January 10, 2006, the baseball world knew of just one king, and his name was Howard Bruce Sutter, Cooperstown's newest resident.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.