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Cubs historical sleuthing: Bruce Sutter edition

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Here’s one from Sutter’s big years with the Cubs.


Bruce Sutter had a Hall of Fame career as a relief pitcher.

Unfortunately, because Cubs ownership under the Wrigleys couldn’t or wouldn’t pay him what he was worth, he had most of that career with the Cardinals and Braves.

The Getty supplied caption to this photo reads:

Cubs’ ace reliefer Bruce Sutter working the mound in the 10th inning against the Giants, got the win as Chicago beat San Francisco 1-0, breaking the Giants’ four game winning streak.

Yes, it says “reliefer.” My friend and former colleague Rob Neyer would be pleased; he uses that spelling.

So, what do we have here? A 1-0 Cubs win over the Giants in extra innings.

The Cubs beat the Giants 1-0 three times in Sutter’s years with the team. One of those games was in San Francisco, so that’s eliminated. The other two, interestingly enough, both went extra innings.

Sutter didn’t pitch in the 1976 game, so by process of elimination, we know this photo must have been taken in the 10th inning of the game Thursday, June 9, 1977.

With one out in the 10th, Derrel Thomas doubled. That’s definitely Thomas (No. 30) leading off second base, so we are looking at Sutter delivering a pitch to either the next hitter (Rob Andrews) or the following hitter (Terry Whitfield). Andrews attempted to bunt Thomas to third, made an out, but Thomas didn’t advance. You’d never do this in modern baseball, especially with a guy (Thomas) who was a fast baserunner and already in scoring position. Sutter then struck out Whitfield to end the inning.

Sutter actually pitched one more inning — long outings were fairly frequent for him — and the Cubs won the game in the 11th. George Mitterwald led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed to third. Two intentional walks were issued to load the bases, and Jose Cardenal put down a perfect squeeze bunt to win the game.

I was a bit hesitant about this date because the bit of the bleachers you can see would seem to indicate a crowd larger than the announced 9,772. But back in those days, especially on a cool (53 degrees) but sunny day, the bleachers were often full when the rest of the ballpark wasn’t.

The loss did indeed snap a four-game Giants winning streak. Meanwhile, the Cubs improved to 33-19 with the win and they led the NL East by three games. The rest of that year... well, let’s not talk about it.