St. Louis, Milwaukee catcher fell off writers’ ballot quickly

St. Louis, Milwaukee catcher fell off writers’ ballot quickly

By CHARLIE VASCELLARO • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

One of 19 catchers elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame, Ted Simmons belatedly joins his contemporaries: Johnny Bench (1967 to 1983, inducted 1989); Carlton Fisk (1969 to 1993, inducted 2000); and Gary Carter (1974 to 1992, inducted 2003), all of whom played in a golden age for the position.

Largely overlooked by the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America in his first year of eligibility in 1994 Simmons received just 3.7% of the requisite 5% in order to remain on the ballot.

Simmons spent a generation in candidacy purgatory until his name was included on the Modern Era Committee ballot for the first time in 2018, falling one vote shy of the 12 needed to gain the 75% necessary for election. The third time proved to be a charm for Simmons who received 13 votes on the 2019 ballot, joined by long time MLBPA (union) Executive Director Marvin Miller.

“Waiting it out is horrible, but when it comes, it’s Niagara Falls. The weight is lifted. It’s complete and total relief,” said Simmons upon hearing of his election in December of 2019.

The 2019/2020 Modern ERA Committee of 16 included Simmons’ former teammate Robin Yount and rival competitors George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray and Ozzie Smith.

The cancellation of the Hall’s 2020 Induction because of the coronavirus pandemic postponed Miller and Simmons induction, along with BBWAA selections Derek Jeter and Larry Walker. All four will be officially enshrined when the ceremony returns to the grounds of the Clark Sports Center in the town of Middlefield at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 8.

While Simmons accomplishments as a player may have been unacknowledged by the voting members of the BBWAA, the compilation of his batting statistics portray a different story. Simmons was one of most consistent hitters among catchers during his or any era: His .285 batting average is approximately 20 points higher than Fisk (.269) Bench (.267) and Carter (.262). Simmons’s 1,389 RBI (runs batted in) place him second behind only Hall of Famer Yogi Berra (1,430) among catchers. During his 21-year career, Simmons drove in more runs than the aforementioned trio, as well as modern-day mashers Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez. His 2,472 hits and 483 doubles are second only to Rodriguez (2,844 and 572) at the position. His 1,771 games played as a catcher ranks 17th all-time.

Simmons is best remembered as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, making his major league debut in 1968. He was the team’s starting catcher for the duration of the 1970s and was traded to the American League’s Milwaukee Brewers in 1981, where he remained for five seasons. In 1982, Simmons became one of six catchers to hit home runs in back-to-back World Series games, as the Brewers lost in seven games to his former Cardinals.

He spent the final three years of his career with the Atlanta Braves as a backup catcher, first baseman and third baseman from 1986 to 1988.

An eight-time All-Star, Simmons was voted the National League’s starting catcher with the Cardinals in 1978 and the American League starter as a member of the Brewers in 1983. He was named to the NL All-Star reserves roster in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1979 and 1981.

Most of the time Simmons was backup to Bench and/or Carter on the NL All-Star teams and while he may have toiled in their shadows, upon his election to the Hall Bench tweeted his appreciation for Simmons ultimate inclusion to baseball’s most elite fraternity.

Bench tweeted Dec. 8, 2019:

“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 @baseballhall Ted Simmons!


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