"My sons remember me most as a Cardinal," Sutter said. "My one son is 26 years old and I don't think he's ever seen me without a beard. It's not as black as it used to be, but it's still there."
Sutter came up with the Cubs and finished with the Braves during the course of his 13-year career that ended in 1988. He played five years with Chicago and four years for St. Louis before grinding out the last four in Atlanta, where he experienced severe shoulder problems from the repetition of using the split-finger fastball as his out pitch. Incidentally, Ryne Sandberg, who came up with the Phillies, but played almost his entire career in Chicago, went in last year as a Cub.
Sutter's career hit its zenith, though, when he helped the Cardinals defeat the Brewers in Game 7 of the 1982 World Series. Sutter pitched two hitless, shutout innings to earn his second save of the series and punched out Brewers center fielder Gorman Thomas to give the Cardinals their last World Series title.
"My family identifies with me throwing that last pitch to Gorman Thomas," Sutter said. "I'm certainly thankful for what the Cubs did for me. I respect their organization. It's the same way with the Atlanta Braves, an awfully fine organization. I respect everybody who's down there and that's still where I live today. But the Cardinals represent the best years of my career."
No matter, it wasn't his choice. And on Wednesday, Sutter appeared at a press conference in Manhattan and was asked to don a dark blue cap with a Hall of Fame insignia above the brim and a white jersey with Hall of Fame embossed in script across the chest. A photo placard of Sutter to the right of the dais showed the bearded right-hander throwing off the mound in Cardinals garb juxtaposed to a black and white photo of a young clean-shaven Sutter wearing his Cubs uniform.
The cap issue wasn't even addressed on Wednesday until it was broached by a member of the media.
"It's the Hall of Fame's call now," said Dale Petroskey, the Hall's long-time president. "Because Bruce played with three great organizations, we agonized about what logo we'd place on the cap on his plaque. But in the end, I think he and we thought the Cardinals were the most appropriate choice, recognizing that he had some great years in Chicago and finished in Atlanta. But all that will be documented on his plaque."
Hall officials took over the process of designating the team that is represented on a player's plaque after Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield were inducted in 2001. Puckett, of course, played his entire career for the Twins.
The Hall's decision came amidst reports that Winfield had shopped his Hall of Fame affiliation before determining to go in as a member of the Padres, the team that drafted him and gave him his start in the Major Leagues. Winfield played 22 seasons with six teams, including his first eight with the Padres and his next eight with the Yankees.
Since then, the Hall has had some tough decisions, opting to have Gary Carter go in as the only member of the Montreal Expos in 2003 rather than his glory days with the 1986 champion Mets, and designating Wade Boggs as a member of the Red Sox last year, even though he won his only World Series with the Yankees and collected his 3,000th hit with Tampa Bay.
Sutter, who received 76.9 percent of the vote -- only 1.9 percent more than the necessary 75 percent to gain election -- was an equally tough decision for Hall officials.
He signed with the Cubs in 1971 and made his way up through their Minor League system, where he developed his trademark pitch. After a decade in that organization he was traded to the Cardinals on Dec. 9, 1980, in the deal that sent Leon Durham and Ken Reitz to Chicago.
"The Cubs gave me a chance to play," Sutter said. "They signed me as a free agent and brought me to the Major Leagues. The first day I walked into Wrigley Field was one of the best days of my life. And I owe them an awful lot."
Then, after saving a career-high 45 games for the Cardinals in 1984, Sutter signed a four-year, $6.5 million deal with the Braves, a contract that might pale in comparison to the four-year, $43 million pact left-handed closer Billy Wagner recently signed with the Mets, but was one of the most lucrative at the time.
Sutter, though, blew out his shoulder and was never a factor in Atlanta. He pitched the 1985 season hurt, had surgery that offseason, rushed back and tore his labrum, sat out the entire 1987 season and wound up making only 112 appearances and saving 40 games for the Braves.
"I hurt my shoulder down there and if I had one regret, its that I could never pitch," Sutter said. "But if I hadn't thrown the split-finger, I would've never have made the Major Leagues. I would've been at best a Double-A player. So if they told me it was going to hurt my arm I'd do it all over again."