Sutton reflects on '77 All-Star Game
Dodgers pitcher started Midsummer Classic at Yankee Stadium
WASHINGTON -- While growing up in northwest Florida, Baseball Hall of Famer Don Sutton had dreams of being a member of the Yankees and playing with Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Bobby Richardson.
"Every time I threw as a kid, mentally, I was pitching at Yankee Stadium," Sutton said.
Sutton never got the chance to play for the Yankees. Instead, he is known for his 15-plus years with the Dodgers, starting in 1966.
It wasn't until the 1977 All-Star Game that Sutton received his first chance to pitch at Yankee Stadium. It was worth it, too, for he was named the game's Most Valuable Player after the National League defeated the American League, 7-5.
Talk about dreams coming true.
Sutton pitched three shutout innings for the NL, while striking out four batters and walking one. Thirty-one years later, Sutton, now a broadcaster for the Nationals, said he was surprised that he was named the MVP because there were a couple of position players he felt deserved the honor.
"I was sitting in the training room with Joe Morgan and Greg Luzinski after the game," Sutton said. "They both had good ballgames. A guy stuck his head in and said, 'They want you outside. You are the MVP.' All three of us are [looking at each other]. And the guy said, 'You, you are the MVP.' I was a little shocked. I was pleased, I was elated."
After going 10-4 with a 2.58 ERA with Los Angeles during the first half of the '77 season, Sutton was named by Reds manager Sparky Anderson to be the starter for the National League. It took a few minutes to sink in.
To keep his emotions in check, Sutton went to Yankee Stadium the day before the game and visited Monument Park. There he saw the plaques of Mantle, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
"I walked out and stood near the monuments and listened to the ghosts and they are there," Sutton said.
Going to Yankee Stadium a day before the All-Star Game worked wonders for Sutton. He kept his emotions in check and impressed the 56,683 fans who were at the Stadium that day.
"It was one of the most rewarding moments of my life," Sutton said.
Run support wasn't a problem that day. Sutton was given a quick 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Morgan and Luzinski hit home runs and George Foster doubled home Dave Parker.
"I figured anyone with half a brain would say, 'Throw that thing over the plate and see what happens because you have some runs to play with,'" Sutton said. "I got over the emotion of being the starter. I got over the emotion of Yankee Stadium the day before."
Sutton would visit Yankee Stadium one more time that year and that would be in the World Series with the Dodgers facing the Yankees. For Sutton, being in the Fall Classic at the stadium didn't compare to being the All-Star starter a few months earlier.
"It wasn't the mountaintop that [the All-Star Game] was," Sutton said. "[The All-Star Game] was a joy and a privilege. The rest of the time I was there, it was work. It was a magnificent office the rest of the time. That night on July 19 was a joy."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.