PRO BASEBALL PLAYER
One of the most dominant pitchers in Major League Baseball during the 1980s and 1990s was from right here in the Show Me State. Rick Sutcliffe put together some of the best seasons in National League history, winning both the Cy Young Award and the Pitcher of the Year in two separate seasons.
THE EARLY YEARS
Rick Sutcliffe was born on June 21, 1956, in Independence. He spent his childhood in the Kansas City area where he was soon one of the biggest names in high school sports. He was a three-sport star at Van Horn High School in Independence, playing baseball, football, and basketball for the Falcons.
RISE TO FAME
At the age of seventeen, Rick’s career plans were already starting to take shape. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 1974 amateur draft as the twenty-first overall pick. He played in the minors for only two years in the Dodgers farm system before finally making a few appearances in the major leagues over the next few years. He was used only sporadically, but it was enough to whet his appetite to succeed.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Once Rick made his way into the everyday line up for the Dodgers in 1979, it took him very little time to make an impact. He was only twenty-three years old, but his first full season is one of the best ever for a major league rookie. Sutcliffe went on to win seventeen games during that rookie year, which also earned him the honor National League Rookie of the Year.
He was unable to equal the success of his rookie year over the next two years, which led to a trade to Cleveland in 1982, then to the Chicago Cubs in 1984. The trade to Chicago was just the career kick-start he needed, as he put up a record of 16–1 after the trade, ending with twenty wins overall that season. He led to Cubs to the playoffs against San Diego, where he won Game 1 before the Cubs fell in five games. That year he also won the National League Cy Young Award and the Pitcher of the Year Award from The Sporting News. He had another award- winning season in 1987 for the Cubs, where he won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, the Roberto Clemente Award, and a second National League Pitcher of the Year, and even played in the All-Star Game. Sadly, with his amazing amount of success that year, the Cubs failed to make the playoffs.
Sutcliffe stayed with the Cubs for another seven years, then a pair of seasons with Baltimore, and his final year with the St. Louis Cardinals. He finished his amazing eighteen-year professional career with 171 wins in nearly 400 starts. Rick retired from baseball in 1994 but continued to be involved with the sport. He transitioned from playing on the field to the broadcasting booth. He spent the next few years behind the microphone for the San Diego Padres and can still be heard today nationwide with ESPN Baseball.
*Rick hit a home run in Game 1 of the 1984 playoffs. He is one of the only pitchers in history to win a playoff game in which he also hit a home run.
*He played in three All-Star Games.
*His 1984 contract briefly made him the highest paid pitcher in Major League Baseball.