I am not going to lie to you. I used to get Don Sutton and Burt Hooton confused. And you can’t blame me.
First of all, when I got my set of Kellogg’s 3-D Super Stars Cards, it was 1978. I almost NEVER saw National League games. And I never saw the Dodgers play.
Both names have a one syllable first name and a 2 syllable second name separated by a T sound and ends in ON.
Both were 3-D Super Stars and both played for the Dodgers. And both were white guys with hair sticking out of the side of their respective caps. So yeah, I got the two confused.
Now Hooton wasn’t a product of the Dodgers organization like Sutton, Hooton never appeared on Match Game and Hooton never made it to the Hall of Fame.
But Hooton checked a lot off of his baseball bucket list and etched his way into Dodger lore.
Hooton was the second overall pick in the 1971 draft out of the University of Texas and went to the Cubs organization. Pete Broberg, already a Card of the Day, was first overall. The Cubs picked better.
Hooton went right to Chicago and pitched well in 3 games, throwing a pair of complete games and a shutout to a 2.11 ERA before being assigned to Tacoma.
In 1972, he made the team out of spring training. In his first start of the year and only his 4th start of his big league career, Burt Hooton threw a no hitter against the Phillies. He electrified the crowd who knew the Cubs may finally have a shot. He won 11 games as a rookie and threw to a 2.80 ERA over his 31 starts and 2 relief appearances. Leo Durocher was the manager of the Cubs and Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins were on the team. So were Milt Pappas, Rick Reuschel and Bill Hands to put together a terrific pitching staff.
The Cubs would finish 85-70 and behind the Pirates for the NL East. But the Cubs fortunes slipped in 1973 and 1974. A month into the 1975 season, Hooton was sent packing to the Dodgers in a deal involving Geoff Zahn.
LA was a perfect fit for Hooton. He won 18 games for the 1975 Dodgers over 223 2/3 innings and instantly brought depth to the LA rotation.
By 1977, he was a mainstay in the rotation, giving LA 223 1/3 innings and throwing to a 2.62 ERA. He pitched a complete game victory in Game 2 of the 1977 World Series. But in Game 6, he surrendered the first of Reggie Jackson’s 3 homers and he took the loss.
1978 he was even better. He did not make the All Star team but finished second in the Cy Young vote. This is partially because he went 11-3 with a 2.27 ERA over 15 second half starts. The Dodger staff was super deep in 1978. Hooton was matched with Tommy John, Rick Rhoden, the late Bob Welch and of course Don Sutton, whom I confused with Burt Hooton.
Once again, Hooton won Game 2 of the World Series. And once again, he lost a later game, this time Game 5 as the Yankees won again.
His time to shine in the post season was 1981. In the Divisional Series implemented because of the split season, the Astros were up 2-0 and poised for the sweep. Hooton only allowed a homer and 2 other hits over 7 strong innings to save the season. The Dodgers would go on to the NLCS.
There, Sutton pitched into the 8th in the opener and in Game 4, another potential elimination game. As the Dodgers broke Montreal’s heart, Hooton was named NLCS MVP.
Back to the World Series where the Dodgers once again faced the Yankees. This time Hooton flipped the script. He lost Game 2 but won Game 6, the clinching game in Yankee Stadium, to give manager Tommy Lasorda a long awaited for title.
The euphoria of 1981 would be his apex. Off years in 1982 and 1983 led to a 1984 spent in the bullpen where he had mixed results. In 1985, he played his lone year in the American League as he spent the year with the Rangers in his native Texas.
After his big league career ended in 1986, he became a pitching coach in the Dodgers organization and then went to the Astors farm system and the Padres farm.
A no hitter, NLCS MVP, multiple World Series trips and a ring is nothing to sneeze at for a career. Being confused with a Hall of Famer comes with the territory.
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