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Bruce, we gave you tha keys, and THIS is what you brought home?

¿Dónde está mi dinero, las rameras?

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Tuesday, January 10

Special Bruce Sutter Hall Of Fame Edition

Cool. Now I have an actual Polaroid of a Hall of Famer, wearing a cheezy basketball uniform, standing next to me, wearing a cheezy leisure suit.

In case you don't know that story, briefly, the Cubs used to trot out several of their players every winter to barnstorm the midwest, playing in high school gyms, for charity. In 1977 they stopped in beautiful Black Lung, where MY heroes played a roster of my junior high and high school coaches. Think about how much things have changed: both Reuschels, Ray Burris, Mike Krukow, and Bruce Sutter came to MY small-ass town to play basketball. That is akin to Prior, Zambrano, Glendon Rusch and Dempster coming to Corn Hole to play a bunch of resentful frustrated ex-jocks who would probably love nothing more than the chance to cripple a pro athlete with a hard foul.

The Cubs won, BTW, on a long jumper at the buzzer by Big Daddy Reuschel, who was in fact the Truth on wood as well as a mound.

Anyway, for those of you under 35, you are probably wondering why Bruce Sutter got elected to the Hall today. He wasn't a freak of nature, like Hoyt Wilhelm, or the first modern relief pitcher with a handlebar stache who pitched in a bunch of World Series, like Rollie Fingers, nor did he win 100 games as a starter, beat alcohol and become probably the greatest career closer ever, like Dennis Eckersley.

But you have to understand that his career was almost like one of those bad Disney baseball movies. He didn't invent the split-finger pitch, but nobody threw it better. When he came up with that pitch, in a desperate attempt to save what seemed to be a lackluster career, it was like watching "Flubber" or something on TV. NOBODY could touch that pitch. It literally looked like it rolled off of a table, and he never, ever hung one that I can remember.

For about three years, until he finally broke down, came back too soon, and was given up on and traded, nothing was as automatic as Bruce Sutter, and nothing was as amazing as watching him take on the biggest and baddest. The only reason whatsoever that the Cubs were semi-respectable in 1977-79 was he. Once he left town, what was left over was probably the worst Cub team in history. If the Cubs could make it to the seventh inning with a lead, they usually won in those days. It was a testament to how shitty their starting pitching was at that time, since they probably played to 10 games BELOW .500 in those three years.

Sutter would come on in the seventh inning, eighth at the latest most days, with runners in scoring position. The first few games in 1977, when it was a complete surprise, batters can be excused. After that, the whole fucking league knew it was coming. Batters knew that what he threw would look like a straight meaty, cheesy fastball down the middle, and they knew that 18 inches before home plate, the fucker would dive like a kamikaze. The Key to the Whole Thing was, all you had to do was take it for a ball, since it would end up at your feet. But, guys just could not resist, and to me that was the most amazing thing, that so many guys killed themselves trying.

I watched Sutter strike out the side in nine pitches, and not a single one of them a fastball. I guess he had another breaking pitch of some sort, not that I ever remember him using it until he was injured. Most times, he would start you off with something around the plate, which batters would take, and then whack themselves in the head for not hitting the cookie. Then the batter would dig in, and jerk their backs out trying to reach the next two. If he thought you were going to sit on the first-pitch cookie, well he'd just splitter you three times.

He was unstoppable, deadly, out of his freakin' mind for three years with us, then as usual, we traded him for Leon Durham (how did THAT turn out?) and he went on to save bunches more games in a more conventional manner for the Deadbirds and the Braves. He deserves to be there, if for no other reason that he was absolutely unique, and that he made an impact on the game for all eternity for all of us who saw him. I don't know how else to put it.