Ted Simmons In The Baseball Hall Of Fame? Who Was That Guy?

Baseball Hall of Fame via Twitter

Sure. I’ve heard the name. Ted Simmons. Ballplayer.

Then my mind goes blank. No moments to recall. No highlights to argue about. No individual thing that leaps out and says, “You, know! That one time! Ted Simmons!”

I mean, the man played for 21 years, 17 of which I was breathing oxygen. So how did I miss this guy? Who was this guy???

Baseball Reference is a great start: eight-time All-Star as a catcher, .285 career batting average, seven seasons hitting above .300, top-20 in MVP voting seven times.

Wow. Sounds solid, especially for a catcher. But no Gold Gloves, third in passed balls, first in stolen-bases allowed six times. Ahhh. Oh, but wait. In 10 seasons, he was top-five in throwing runners out. Apparently. Cardinals and Brewers pitchers put people on and then let them run free like colts in a Kentucky meadow in spring.

This guy was under siege, and apparently unafraid to let fly: nine seasons in the top-10 in errors and nine seasons in the top-10 in assists.

He sounds like the Brett Favre of catchers. But, my eyes are glazing over from something I like to call SFSD, or Stat Fatigue Syndrome Dammit. I need more. I need to put an identity a personality… something with this guy.

So, I go hunting for anything about the man. He has been elected to Baseball Hall of Fame for crying out loud. There has to be something out there to tell even a an old baseball geek like me something about this man.

Crickets. All of the initial stories mention Simmons in passing. Like, “Marvin Miller led the players’ union through five work stoppages and… (oh yeah) catcher Ted Simmons with his eight All-Star games made it too.

But then I found RetroSimba. It’s a retrospective site about the St. Louis Cardinals, with a passionate publisher not unlike this one. Though we here at The Spitter fancy ourselves suaver, more debonairerer, and more knowledgeable about other stuff, like flip cup.

“Simba” apparently was Ted Simmons’ nickname. You’d think a guy with a handle like that would have garnered a little more publicity.

One reader of the RetroSimba site recalls Simmons, nicknamed “Simba” because of his mane of hair, hit a homer off the Cubs and got thrown out the second he touched home plate.

I’m starting to like this guy.

Apparently, he modeled his swing after Al Kaline. Unlike Kaline, though, Simmons was a switch hitter, and a pretty damn fine one at that, with nearly identical stats from both sides.

“Of the 18 catchers enshrined in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., the lone switch-hitter is Biz Mackey, who played for Negro League teams over three decades (1920s, 1930s and 1940s). Segregation kept Mackey from playing in the major leagues,” writes RetroSimba’s Mark Tomasik.

Simmons career average is six points higher than Carlos Beltran who has been mentioned multiple times as a likely future member of the hall… assuming voters don’t hold his decision to manage the Mets against him.

Speaking of the Mets, Simmons hit .315 against them. Though his statistics through different situations are amazingly similar to one another, he did rise to the occasion against one team more than any other.

He hit .334 against the Cubs. No wonder Cardinals fans love him and hated then general manager/manager Whitey Herzong for trading him to Milwaukee.

They would continue to get to see him play. He’s sixteenth all-time in games caught.

So, congratulations are in order, and since I can’t be trusted to remember, let’s give the fans the benefit of the doubt as they flood social media with memories today. One fan in particular stands out. “

“The definition of a catcher, tough and durable. He stood above others with clutch hitting for power & average. I couldn’t be happier! Proud to have him join us in Cooperstown. Welcome to the @baseballhallTed Simmons!” wrote Johnny Bench on Twitter.

Must be a west coast thing. I still don’t remember anything.

One more note. Simmons made $17,500 with the Cardinals in his first full season, and more than $1 million in 1986.

Oh by the way, labor leader Marvin Miller was also selected.

Simmons got one more vote than Miller.

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