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Braves Announcer Don Sutton Returns

July 2, 2002

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ATLANTA (AP) _ Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton returned to work as an Atlanta Braves broadcaster Monday, less than a month after he had surgery to remove a cancerous kidney.

A growth was discovered during routine tests in May, and doctors later discovered it was malignant. Sutton was supposed to miss 4-to-6 weeks, but returned earlier than expected because his recovery was going so well.

``Having an organ removed is a major surgery,″ he said before Atlanta played the Montreal Expos. ``I was prepared to hurt for a long time, but I haven’t. In my mind, that in and of itself is a miracle.″

Sutton won 324 games in his 23-year career, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. The four-time All-Star retired in 1988 and joined Atlanta’s broadcast team a year later.

He arrived in the booth about 3 1/2 hours before Monday’s game, exchanging handshakes and hugs with the TBS production crew. He rejoined regular partner Pete Van Wieren.

``This is another part of my family,″ he said. ``I know to a person they were there for me. When you can work with friends and family, obviously, it makes it great to be back.″

Following the play of the Braves may have helped his body mend a little faster. Atlanta won 19 of 23 games in his absence, and began play Monday night with an 8 1/2-game lead in the NL East. In fact, Sutton said he heard daily from team president Stan Kasten about how well the team was doing _ without him in the booth.

``I razzed him and joked with him, just like I do all the time,″ Kasten said. ``I told him he was as important as a leg on a four-legged table. We couldn’t keep the table up without him, but we could find another leg in about 30 minutes.

``But that’s how confident we were that Don was going to get better and get back on the air. He’s an important part of what we do.″

Former Atlanta second baseman Mark Lemke filled in for Sutton on the radio broadcasts, and Joe Simpson was the regular TV analyst. Simpson rejoined regular partner Skip Caray in the radio booth Monday night.

Sutton was to open Monday night’s telecast by himself to thank fans and viewers for the encouragement he received.

``We’re a family, and we all missed Don,″ TBS producer Glenn Diamond said. ``He’s a fighter, and it’s a credit to him that he came back so soon.″

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