When Ted Simmons was finally voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2020, it was an honor that was long overdue.
The former Milwaukee Brewer had previously been snubbed, despite a 21-year career that rivaled, or even overshadowed, many of the other catchers who grace the Hall of Fame. According to pitcher, Pete Vuckovich, “it was a travesty, really.” For instance, Ted Simmons led all catchers in career hits and doubles when he retired. He was second in RBI’s behind Yogi Berra, and second in total bases behind Carlton Fisk.
His batting average was .300 or higher seven times in his career, and he hit 20 or more home runs 6 times. Simba caught 122 shutouts, putting him at 8th all-time. At the time of his retirement, he held the National League record for home runs by a switch hitter, despite spending five years in the American League.
In addition, he won the Silver Slugger Award in 1980 and was an 8-time All-Star. Ted twice led the National League in intentional walks, and currently ranks 15th all-time. Simmons also caught two no-hitters, once for Bob Gibson and once for Bob Forsch. Hall of Fame worthy stats, without a doubt.
A Key Contributor to Milwaukee’s Success
Ted Simmons arrived in the same trade that brought Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich to The Crew. He filled a critical gap for the Brewers, turning them into immediate contenders. The team desperately needed a solid catcher and Simmons brought his veteran experience along with his bat. Teammate Ned Yost said, “Teddy came over and brought a winning attitude.”
Simba was well-known for calling games. He was “old school” and a true student of the game. His brain held a rolodex of knowledge about teams and players. While today’s game relies on analytics, Ted Simmons knew his pitchers, and what pitches to throw to batters. By all accounts, the pitching staff loved having Simmons behind the plate. Fellow Brewer, Robin Yount once said that Ted Simmons was “the final piece of the puzzle” in getting the team to the World Series.
In 1981, his first year with The Crew, his bat was relatively quiet. Transitioning from the National League to the American League proved to be tough for Simba, who finished with a batting average of .216 in the strike-shortened season. But his veteran leadership and his steadiness behind the plate helped the team. One of the highlights of the season was when Simmons caught Rollie Fingers’ strikeout of Lou Whitaker. As a result, the Brewers won the second-half American League East title.
Simmons was able to get his bat going in 1982. Along with hitters Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Gormon Thomas and Ben Oglivie, the Brewers line-up got it done. Ted hit .269 with 23 home runs and 97 RBI, and the team clinched the division on the last day of the season. In the postseason, Simmons hit two home runs and went 7 for 31 before the Brewers fell to the Cardinals in the World Series.
Ted’s best year with the team was in 1983 and, as a result, he made the All-Star team. Simmons had a career year, hitting .308 with 13 home runs and 108 RBI. For much of the year, the Brewers were in the hunt for the post season; however, they fizzled out at the end of the season finishing 87-75. Age and injuries were catching up with The Crew, and they missed the playoffs. Manager Harvey Kuenn was also let go.
1984 and 1985
The Brewers continued their decline in the next year under new skipper, Rene Lachemann. The team finished 67-94, and Ted had an equally difficult year. He hit .221 with only 4 home runs. Instead of contenders, the team finished 7th in the AL East. George Bamberger took over the helm in 1985, and the Brewers did not fair much better. They ended their year sixth in the AL East with a record of 71-90. Simmons bat was again strong, and he finished the year with a batting average of .273 with 14 home runs and 76 RBI. It was his last year with the Brewers, who traded him to Atlanta during the next Spring Training.
1986 and Beyond
Ted played three more years in the majors, finishing his career with the Braves. His knowledge of the game and business acumen brought him back to the MLB in various executive positions. For example, he was hired as the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992, but suffered a heart attack in June 1993. In the last twenty years, he has served as Director of Player Development for the Cardinals and the Padres, and as a scout for the Cleveland Indians and the Braves. Simmons also spent time as bench coach for the Brewers and Padres, and as an adviser in the Mariners organization.
- Simmons was an outspoken opponent of President Richard Nixon and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War
- He played much of his 1972 season with the Cardinals without a contract due to a pay dispute
- Simmons was the first catcher to start All-Star games for both the American and National Leagues, as a Brewer and a Cardinal
- Simba is a member of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame
- He was only one vote short of being elected by the Veterans Committee to the Hall of Fame in December 2017, a wrong that was righted in December 2019
- Upon learning he was voted to the HOF, Simba remarked, ”I have a thing about finishing what I started.”
- Ted graduated from the University of Michigan in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management, 31 years after first stepping foot on U-M’s campus
- Ted Simmons and his wife, Maryanne, will celebrate their 50th anniversary in May 2020
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