Don Sutton was the voice of lazy summertime afternoons in Atlanta.
Broadcasting Braves games on the radio, the 324-game winner and Hall of Fame pitcher spoke with authority about his craft. Like legendary baseball announcers from the past, the Alabama native also seemed like a member of the family or a trusted old friend.
Mostly remembered as a gritty, indomitable starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the longtime Braves broadcaster died Monday night of cancer at his home in California at age 75. He also pitched for the Astros, Brewers, Athletics and Angels, getting hitters out with guile and guts more than overpowering fastballs.
While he never pitched for the Braves, Sutton became a team icon as a broadcaster. He joined the beloved team of Ernie Johnson Sr., Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, who narrated the Braves' rise from their forlorn days on Ted Turner's Channel 17 to their glory years as the National League's top franchise. Sutton was the last surviving member of the team.
In a Fox Sports corporate shakeup, Sutton was banished from TV to radio, where he found his true metier. He was a throwback to the old-time radio voices who brought baseball into American homes before the television era. In contrast to football and basketball, baseball is a radio game. Along with imparting baseball lessons, Sutton painted vivid pictures of a game's action.
From his 23-year career as a pitching craftsman, Sutton drew upon a deep knowledge of baseball culture, how the players experienced the long season, the intricacies of the game, the drama of each inning.
As the AJC's Mark Bradley said in a tribute Wednesday, listeners always learned something from Sutton. The old Dodger also gave them baseball poetry.