Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton looks homeward
MLB star returns to beaches of childhood
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courtesy of Atlanta Braves Radio Network (Logan RileY)
Sutton played 23 seasons in MLB and now is a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves.
Don Sutton grew up in Molino, just north of Pensacola, dreaming about being part of professional baseball. For the past 52 years, he’s been involved at the sport’s highest level — which has meant traveling from coast to coast for at least six months of every year. But Sutton has never forgotten where he grew up or the people who live there.
“When I look back over all the good things that have happened in my life, I’m not sure they would have happened had I grown up anywhere else,” Sutton said. “Every memory I have about growing up there is an important one. If I had to go to one place to find the biggest collection of friends in my life, then the Emerald Coast is where I’d go. I will always be grateful that I had the opportunity to grow up there and that I have had the chance to return there.”
Sutton was born in April of 1945, in Clio, Alabama, to Howard and Lillian Sutton — teenage sharecroppers who lived in a tarpaper shack with a dirt floor. In ’51, Howard moved his family to Molino, where he used his strong will and ambition to become successful in construction, particularly as a concrete-pouring foreman.
“When I visit, I spend time with my dad — he’s 90, now — and we try to revisit some of the places and relive some of the fun we had when I was a kid,” Sutton said. “It usually involves us going down to the Escambia River, and it usually ends up with us finding a place where you can get ‘three sides and a meat’ at one of those little hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I never leave that area without thinking how fortunate I was to have grown up there. We didn’t have a whole lot, but what we had was priceless.”
At J.M. Tate High School, Sutton played a little football and basketball, but it was baseball that brought him All-State recognition his junior and senior years. Tate won a state championship in 1962 and was runner-up in 1963. Also in ’63, Sutton’s classmates voted him “Most Likely to Succeed.”
After attending Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City for a year, Sutton was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the dominant teams in the National League. His debut with the bigtime came at the age of 20, and he eventually spent 23 years in the majors, 16 of them with the Dodgers. Overall, he won 324 games and struck out 3,574 opposing batters. He was a four-time All-Star and earned the MVP award of the 1977 All-Star game. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Dodgers retired his number, 20, that same year.