Saturday, July 18, 2009
#85 Ted Simmons
Who is this player?
Ted Simmons, catcher, St. Louis Cardinals
A standout catcher for several years, Simmons broke Johnny Bench's streak of nine-straight All-Star elections in 1979 when he was voted to start by the fans. He was unable to enjoy the game however, as a broken wrist took a chunk out his season. He was hitting .321 at the time of the injury. 1980 was an even better season for Simmons, as the switch-hitter hit .303 (9th in the league), finished 6th in slugging and on-base percentage, hit 21 home runs and drove in 98. At the end of the season, the Cardinals signed free agent catcher Darrell Porter and Simmons was not in favor of switching positions. He was later involved in a major trade to Milwaukee.
Drafted in 1967, Simmons was managed in the minor leagues by future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. He made his big league debut only a year later with the defending World Champions, but returned to the minor leagues for more seasoning. He stuck with the Cardinals for good in 1970 and almost immediately became one of St. Louis' most valuable hitters. Simmons was also not above challenging the status quo. In 1972, in only his second full season, refused to sign his contract. This was extremely rare in his era, a full four years before Messersmith-McNally. Simmons eventually signed that year, but his actions proved his determination and mettle.
He was no less so on the field. Ted Simmons has never received the national attention he likely deserved while with the Cardinals, even though he was a six-time All-Star, hit .300 or better six seasons, topped 20 homers on five occasions and twice drove in more than 100 runs. This was done in an era where total offensive numbers were much lower than today. He was forever playing in the shadow of Bench, which kept him from earning more recognition.
In 1981, now a Milwaukee Brewer, he again made the All-Star Game and helped the Brewers to their first postseason appearance. The following season, he was part of the greatest Brewers season ever as he helped lead Milwaukee to their only World Series. In a bit of irony, Simmons and the Brewers lost to his old team the St. Louis Cardinals. Simmons had another All-Star season in 1983, hitting over .300 and driving in 108 runs. The Brewers, however, had peaked and had begun to decline, finishing in last place in 1984. Simmons was traded to the Atlanta Braves for the 1986 season, where he would spend the last three years of a 21-year career, retiring with a .285 average.
Almost immediately upon his retirement, Simmons became involved in the management side of baseball, culminating in him being named GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992. A heart attack abruptly ended his tenure as Simmons made some necessary life changes. He eventually returned to the game as bench coach of the Brewers and in 2009 was named bench coach for the San Diego Padres.
Why I love this card
Another local boy! Simmons was born in Hazel Park, Michigan. I also liked this card because it was good to see Simmons get his due as an All-Star. Besides, who these days wears their caps backwards in a game situation? That jumps out at me now, but it wasn't a big deal then.
I didn't realize until researching this that Simmons almost Merkled away the 1982 AL East title. In the 3rd inning of a Brewer-Oriole game on June 16, 1982, with runners on first and second with 1 out, Pete Vuckovich struck out John Lowenstein. Simmons received the pitch and, thinking that it was the 3rd out, rolled the ball back to the mound and began to walk off the field. The Oriole runners each advanced. Joe Nolan then singled both runners home before making the true 3rd out trying to stretch the hit to a double. The game then went into its second rain delay and was finally called after midnight. The game was replayed as part of a double-header on the last Friday of the season. The Brewers held a 3 game lead over Baltimore with 4 to play that weekend and proceeded to blow that lead by losing both ends of the double-header as well as the Saturday game. Finally on Sunday, the Brewers saved Simmons from an ill-fate by winning on the final day of the season.