Don Sutton was an All-Star pitcher when Joe Simpson broke in with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a rookie outfielder. And Sutton was in his fourth season as a Braves announcer when Simpson came to Atlanta to join the team’s broadcast booth.
In both cases, Simpson said Wednesday, Sutton made it a point to help the new guy.
“He was always willing to show me the ropes or point me in the right direction, that sort of thing,” Simpson said. “He was a good influence on me throughout my baseball time.”
Simpson learned of the death of his former teammate and broadcast partner Tuesday via a text message from Sutton’s wife, Mary. Sutton died in his sleep at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., “after a long battle with cancer,” according to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Even though Don didn’t play for the Braves, he was such a part of the broadcasts for so many years (28) that he became a ‘Braves Country’ favorite … and rightfully so,” Simpson said. “He is going to be sorely missed.”
Sutton and Simpson were teammates for parts of the 1975-78 seasons with the Dodgers. Although Sutton was an established star and Simpson was shuttling between L.A. and the minor leagues, “Don was always very good to me,” Simpson said.
“In spring training before the exhibition games would start, we’d have some intra-squad games, and I faced Don on several occasions. After pitching to me, he would come say to me, ‘Here’s what I would do to try to get you out,’ almost giving me a scouting report on myself that would help me.”
Sutton joined the Braves’ broadcast booth in 1989. Simpson moved from the Seattle Mariners’ telecasts to the Braves’ booth in 1992, joining Sutton, Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren and (on a limited basis by then) Ernie Johnson Sr.
“They welcomed me with open arms, all of them, and the fact I already knew Don and he knew me a little bit certainly helped,” Simpson said. “It was such a high-profile crew because of the Superstation (TBS). They were America’s broadcast team, if you will.
“Don and I didn’t work together that much on TV, but we did work together on radio when we weren’t doing a Superstation game. We always enjoyed that because we could play off each other as a pitcher and a position player and have some fun with that.”
On the road, Simpson recalled that Sutton always invited him and others along on golf and dinner outings.
“He was very generous,” Simpson said. “Not only with his time, but he was always buying dinners and buying golf and paying for this and paying for that, as he was taught to do as a big-leaguer. That’s the way he did things, and that’s the way he passed things down.”
Simpson remains a member of the Braves’ broadcast team, working mostly on radio since the 2019 season.