A truly optimistic fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers would have viewed an early season 5-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on a Wednesday night at Connie Mack Stadium before a crowd of 11,756 as a sign of good things to come. While most people looked at the Dodgers formidable pitching staff of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Claude Osteen as their strength, it was a 21-year old rookie from Clio, Alabama who picked up the Dodgers first complete game shutout of the season.
Sutton would go on to throw 57 more shutouts in his career. And he would win 324 games and strike out 3,574 batters in a 23-year career. And Sutton would get himself a plaque in Cooperstown.
Philadelphia started Larry Jackson, who had been acquired as part of a five-player trade with the Cubs that saw Ferguson Jenkins change cities. It wasn't one of the Phillies' better trades. Jackson wasn't a bad pitcher, but he was 35 years old. Jenkins was 23 at the time.
Sutton helped his own cause in the third inning. John Roseboro hit a one-out double and Sutton followed with a single to right to score Roseboro. In the sixth, Ron Fairly singled home two more to put the Dodgers up 3-0. The Dodgers added two more in the ninth off of reliever Terry Fox. Sutton never allowed a Phillie to reach third while striking out eight.
Even with a shutout, Sutton got even more raves for his hitting. He went 3 for 4 in this game and increased his batting average to .455. Sutton, however, would not become a good-hitting pitcher. He would hit just .144 during his career and no higher than .216 in any one season. And Sutton never hit a home run in his career, despite playing 18 of his 23 seasons in the National League. Sutton's 23 years without a home run was a major league record until Jesse Orosco played in his 24th season in 2003. However, Orosco batted just 59 times in his career. Sutton batted 1354 times.
Sutton would also be known for allowing home runs. He gave up 472 of them in his career, fourth most in the major league history (Robin Roberts gave up the most, 505). Sutton would also earn wins against all 26 teams in the majors that were in existence during his career. He pitched in 30 different stadiums and won at least one game in all but one of them (Yankee Stadium where he was 0-4). Sutton had good control and a devastating curve. You could call him a "rich man's Bert Blyleven". He won 20 games in a season just once and threw five one-hitters, but never a no-hitter.
When the season ended in 1966, the Dodgers had won their second straight National League pennant, edging out the Giants by 1 1/2 games. The Dodgers won despite having one of the worst offenses in the majors. Los Angeles scored just 606 runs, 8th in the NL. The Dodgers were shut out 17 times during the season, a record for a pennant winner. The 2005 Astros also were shut out 17 times.
The Dodgers used just five starting pitchers all of 1966: Koufax, Drysdale, Osteen, Sutton, and Joe Moeller (who started just 8 times). The staff ERA was 2.62. In the World Series, the Dodgers anemic offense caught up with them as the Orioles swept them, allowing just two runs. Sutton didn't pitch in the 1966 World Series. Sutton was a great pitcher in LCS play, going 4-1 with a 2.02 ERA, but in the World Series he was 2-3 with a 5.26 ERA.
As for the Philies of 1966, they finished in fourth place at 87-75, eight games behind the Dodgers. Third baseman Dick Allen was awesome batting .326 while hitting 40 home runs and driving in 110 (he didn't play on May 11). First baseman Bill White hit 22 homers and drove in 103. The Philies had three reliable starters in Jim Bunning, Chris Short, and Jackson, but little else. Darold Knowles was the only reliable reliever.
When the 1966 season ended, Sandy Koufax announced his retirement and the Dodgers went south for two years and fell into eighth place. The Phillies fell down to fifth in 1967 and both teams were going to get worse before they got better.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, Retrosheet, Baseball-reference.com