Nice team, these Dodgers.
First, they throw a pregame party at Dodger Stadium Saturday night for Don Sutton, complete with pats on the back, hugs, plaques, warm applause. Then they spend the rest of the evening trying to ruin the occasion for him.
It didn't work.
The Angels defeated the Dodgers, 4-0, in a rain-shortened Freeway Series game that drew 29,931 fans. They saw Sutton almost add to the moisture as he fought back tears during the ceremony. Later, after pitching three scoreless innings, Sutton could be found in the locker room sipping on a glass of Chardonnay.
"Something I brought in to drown the butterflies," he said.
Sutton nervous? Hard to believe from the man who makes it a point to keep a tight leash on his emotions.
"I was surprised I didn't throw the ball against the screen or into the press box or somewhere else because the adrenaline was really flowing," Sutton said. "Tonight was one of those nights I could have done some embarrassing innings."
Maybe it was the Dodgers who were a tad embarrassed, what with waiting six years to thank Sutton properly after choosing not to re-sign him following the 1980 season. By then, Sutton had won 230 games and also established team records for games started, strikeouts, innings pitched and shutouts, to name a few.
So it seems anything is possible, including a tribute to Sutton by the team that specializes in early retirement (see Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, etc.).
Now Sutton is with the Angels. He also is five wins away from his 300th victory, which may explain why the Dodgers saw fit to honor him Saturday night.
It was a pleasant ceremony, and Sutton thanked them, in part, by pitching three shutout innings. In so doing, he lowered his spring earned-run average to 2.45 in 25 innings.
Ron Romanick and Bobby Grich did the rest of the work for the Angels. Romanick followed Sutton and added two more scoreless innings before a persistent drizzle became a bona fide downpour. Grich homered in the fifth inning to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. Doug DeCinces added an RBI double, and Romanick contributed an RBI single.
Mike Marshall was the one bright spot for the Dodgers. He had two hits, although he nearly didn't make it to first base after a second-inning single that saw him stumble and tumble out of the batter's box.
No matter. Despite the deeds of others, the evening still belonged to Sutton.
After lugging away assorted gifts and mementos (a bottle of wine, a glass-encased baseball glove, a fishing fly rod, an attache case, a home plate, a City of Los Angeles plaque declaring April 5 "Don Sutton Day"), the 41-year-old pitcher even managed a single off Dodger starter Rick Honeycutt. "Tonight, he hit my bat," Sutton said. "He just happened to throw a strike."
And guess what number he wore as he jogged down the first-base line? That's right, No. 20, the same numerals he wore on his jersey during his days with the Dodgers. The switch was made possible by Angel center fielder Gary Pettis, who now wears No. 24 (Willie Mays was his idol).
"I had no idea," Sutton said. "It was probably one of the biggest surprises and one of the nicest. To have him do it, I know it was a sacrifice."
There were other surprises. Sutton's former pitching coach, Red Adams, made an appearance at the ceremony. Sutton credits Adams for his success. Then there was Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, who missed Sutton at the pregame festivities, but later phoned him in the Angel clubhouse.
"He had a lot of nice things to say in a couple articles recently, too," Sutton said. "Bill Russell came out and said something kind of special. He said, 'I know how you must feel.' Kind of nice, huh?"
Good thing the rains waited until the sixth inning. Sutton said this may have been his last chance at a night to call his own.
"Apparently, the Dodger office said the only time they could reschedule it would have been Monday at Casey Stengel Field--with eight of us," he said. He laughed when he said it.