By George Castle – CBM Historian on October 18, 2022
Bruce Sutter and Dick Ellsworth were united in death recently with not else much in common other than a couple of salient facts.
The pair were practically the stingiest pitchers in modern Cubs history in one season — both counseled by crafty pitching coach Fred Martin — who got scant recognition for their feats at Wrigley Field and team events after their careers.
Hall of Famer Sutter died too young at 69. Ellsworth lived to a riper old age at 82. But if you looked around at Cubs Conventions and other alumni gatherings from the mid-1980s, they were not around, given despite their status in Cubs annals for two of the best pitching seasons ever. More about that in a little while.
Master of the most deceptive pitch this side of the knuckleball, split-finger fastball master Sutter was the first reliever to win the Cy Young Award, in 1979, as a Cub, a feat that unfortunately speeded his departure out of town. Ellsworth, at his best the epitome of a “stylish left-hander,” was the last Cubs southpaw to win 20 games, in 1963. No, two-no-hitters Ken Holtzman and World Series champion mentor Jon Lester never got to 20 wins as Cubs.
When “stingy” is broken down further, no other Cubs pitcher with the exception of Jake Arrieta can compare with Sutter’s and Ellsworth’s one-season accomplishments.
Sutter was taught the forkball-type splitter by Martin in 1973 in Quincy, Ill., the Cubs Class A affiliate in the Midwest League. The savvy pitching tutor had been banished to the Cubs minor-league system over an apparent personal issue after serving as Ellsworth’s ’63 big-league pitching coach. Martin has never gotten the credit he deserves for being connected to two of the Cubs’ best pitching seasons in franchise history.
STORYCategory Chicago Baseball History Feature Tags Bill Veeck, Bill Wrigley, Bruce Sutter, Chicago Cubs, Cooperstown, Cy Young Award, Dick Ellsworth, Fred Martin, Hall of Fame, Herman Franks, Jake Arrieta, John Holland, Larry Jackson, Lee Arthur Smith, Leo Durocher, southpaw, Tony Garofalo, Wrigley Field