New Inductee Ted Simmons Tours Baseball Hall of Fame
Ted Simmons was led around the plaque room in the Baseball Hall of Fame, regaled with how specific players connected with his own career.
A catcher who played 21 seasons in MLB from 1968-1988, Simmons was a true switch-hitter, playing for the majority of his career in St. Louis for the Cardinals. On Thursday, he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee as part of the Class of 2020. He was a rare breed indeed: a catcher who could swing for the fences as well as play station-to-station baseball.
Beyond his abilities with the bat, he also caught memorable games behind the plate in one of baseball’s shining eras. Drafted by the Cardinals with their first-round draft pick (10th overall) in 1967, initially football was on his mind. Simmons was offered scholarships by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Colorado—but the diamond was his true passion.
Simmons struck a genuine tone during his visit to the Hall on Thursday. At times, he appeared in awe of the honor as much as those in attendance. Stopping by teammate Bob Gibson’s plaque first, he recalled catching a Gibson no-hitter, and the way the baseball powered out of his hands.
Though he also played with the Brewers and Braves later in his career, special attend was paid to his Cardinal teammates. When Simmons joined the Cardinals, Lou Brock, the all-time leader in stolen bases, had a life-changing impact on him.
“He was near the middle of his career, but out of all the guys in that clubhouse, Lou always treated me well. He was always there for me, showed me how to be a big-leaguer. He was a special, special guy.”
The beginning of Simmons’ career was his most productive: he hit at least .303 five times, garnered MVP votes in six seasons, and was named to four All-Star teams. Despite this, the Cardinals traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1981, and faced his old Cardinals’ team in the World Series in 1982—a series they won in seven games.
Born in Highland Park, Michigan, Simmons was a die-hard Tigers’ fan, and credits the passion of Detroiters to sparking his love for sports and baseball, most of all.
“I was always connected with my brothers. Baseball, football, basketball. I changed each sport as the seasons changed, that’s what you used to do. Growing up as a Tiger fan, baseball was the deal. There’s nothing better—a Michigan summer, or a Chicago summer at Wrigley or Briggs (then Tiger) Stadium. When you were at Briggs in June, it was like this place! It’s like going to heaven. It’s the greatest thing in the all the world.”
“It was part of the culture—everyone worked at Ford or GM, then would go to all the games, day or night. If you couldn’t go to the games, you listened on the radio to Ernie Harwell. It’s the culture in Detroit. If it wasn’t the Tigers, it was the Pistons; wasn’t the Pistons, it was the Lions. That’s what it’s about there.”
His final career totals: .285 batting average, 2,472 hits, 483 doubles, 248 home runs, and 1,389 RBI. Whether it was Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Rollie Fingers, or Joe Torre, Simmons spoke humbly and reverentially about all men, and he was honored to take his place in the Hall.