Don Sutton, Calling It as He Sees It

By Michael E. Hill
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 8, 2007

With the 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game scheduled Tuesday and Hall of Fame induction festivities beginning a couple of weeks later in Cooperstown, N.Y., July is a month that holds many memories for MASN baseball color commentator Don Sutton.

Sutton, 62, joined the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network this season, teaming with play-by-play broadcaster Bob Carpenter to call Washington Nationals games. For the previous 18 years, Sutton filled a similar role on Turner Sports telecasts of the Atlanta Braves.

His work in the broadcast booth followed 23 seasons as a starting pitcher in the major leagues, which included four appearances in the All-Star Game. Sutton pitched a total of eight innings in those stints without giving up an earned run.

"The All-Star Game was fun," Sutton recalled. "It was fun to sit there between Johnny Bench and Hank Aaron. To play with Willie Mays. To be in the same room with Joe Morgan. All the stars I grew up wanting to play against and with -- I was now in the same room with them."

All of those players, like Sutton, are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"One of my biggest thrills in life was to get to start the 1977 All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium," he said. In that game, he pitched three innings, got credit for the win and took home the Most Valuable Player trophy. "That was a whole lot of stuff that went together."

Since Sutton's playing days, the All-Star Game has grown in scope, with fan-oriented attractions beginning four days prior to the main event. The popular Home Run Derby airs Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPN, and Fox will carry the game itself Tuesday from AT&T Park in San Francisco. Pre-game ceremonies start at 8 p.m., and the first pitch is scheduled for 8:42 p.m.

"It's turned into a gala, and I think that's wonderful," Sutton said. "I love the Home Run Derby, I love all the fan-fest that goes on around the game, because it really has turned into a festival."

The All-Star Game also has become a factor in the World Series. Not a good idea, Sutton said.

"To me, it's an absolute joke that an exhibition game determines which league gets the home-field advantage in something as big as the World Series -- it's an exhibition game," he said.

"I've been in the business long enough to see it as what it is. It's a marketing tool to bump up the television viewing of the game. They're saying, 'This time it means something.' Well, it meant something to us. It was the pride of representing your league."

A Comfortable Transition

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