Don Sutton endured another hard-luck no-decision Monday night at Anaheim Stadium, then found himself answering questions about "foreign substances" and television cameras pulling in for closeups of his hands.
The Yankees scored a run in the top of the 11th inning to beat the Angels, 3-2, and another effective Sutton pitching performance went for naught. The veteran right-hander worked seven innings, allowing only two runs and three hits. But, for the second consecutive outing, the legitimacy of some of Sutton's methods was questioned.
The game was being televised back to New York, and when a television camera zoomed in for a closeup of Sutton's hands, viewers there didn't like what they saw. Sutton appeared to have a patch of tape across the palm of his left hand, and one replay showed him step off the rubber and rub the taped area with his right index finger.
When informed after the game that the New York television crew had shown the replays, Sutton replied: "That probably makes it more entertaining."
Shortly after the replay aired, New York newspapers reportedly received several phone calls from viewers questioning Sutton's actions. The Associated Press later moved a story that said close-angle television replays "appeared to show a piece of foreign matter" in the center of Sutton's glove hand.
"I suppose you guys are not going to buy that it was a picture of my kids," Sutton said afterward. "And I suppose you're not going to buy that it was covering up a blister."
Sutton claimed it was the latter, adding: "I swear to you, it wasn't sandpaper, it wasn't an emery board, and I don't mind being checked on the mound at any time."
With that, Sutton closed his meeting with the press and began making his way out of the Angel clubhouse. These matters are not pleasant to him, but they're hardly unusual.
After Sutton struck out Rick Cerone to end the top of the fifth inning, home plate umpire Rick Reed asked catcher Bob Boone for the ball, then had it removed from play.
Second base umpire Dale Ford came to the mound before the top of the seventh to look at a ball, and Reed checked it again after Sutton had completed his warmup pitches, but kept it in play.
Sutton was under similar scrutiny in his last outing, a 2-1 loss to Baltimore last Wednesday. Frank Robinson, filling in for Cal Ripken Sr. as the Oriole manager, went to the plate before the bottom of the fifth inning to ask home plate umpire Don Denkinger to inspect the baseball. Robinson had Baltimore pitcher Mike Boddicker toss him the ball Sutton used to strike out Eddie Murray to end the top of the fifth and presented it to Denkinger.
Before taking the mound in the top of the sixth, Sutton stopped to talk to Denkinger about the inspection. Denkinger later said that he warned Sutton of a possible ejection if he found any more balls to be scarred, and that he was having some of the balls in question sent to the office of American League President Dr. Bobby Brown.
The following day, Sutton declined to comment on the inspections and accusations, and Angel Manager Gene Mauch said his pitcher would be "foolish" to scuff the ball given the current rash of pitchers being caught and ejected for such practices.
Mauch said he was unaware of any controversy in Monday night's game until Angel General Manager Mike Port informed him of the television replays. "I don't know what the hell is going on," Mauch said. "All I know is that he had a blister on the palm of his left hand."