Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#260 - Ted Simmons

This card always cracked me up as a kid. First off, Ted's hat here looks a lot like a gypsy-style bandana that was huge with the "burnouts" (the kids who got stoned) in my school back then. Then this chest protector looks absurdly small on Mr. Simmons and his huge frame and annoyed expression seemed to me to indicate he didn't need the damn thing anyway. I didn't even notice the Giant bending over behind him. Now I'm guessing that's Darrel Evans but Ted still looks pretty big and ornery. So I guess I got that part right.

Ted Simmons grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and was drafted and signed out of high school as a first-rounder by the Cards in '67. He was in A ball by the end of the summer and in '68 would rip a .331 average with 28 homers at that level. In '69 he was promoted to Triple A where he hit .317 with 16 homers and 88 RBIs. He began attending the University of Michigan in the off-seasons around this time and would eventually get a degree in speech there. After another hot start in Triple A in '70 he came up to The Show where he spent the season swapping catching time with Joe Torre. Ted would impress people enough that Torre was moved to third base - just in time to post an MVP season - and he became the starting catcher for the next ten seasons, and a damn good one at that. Ted justified the move right away by topping .300 his first season. He then held out in '72 which was pretty ballsy back then and played without a contract for half the season. But it didn't affect his hitting as his high average and RBI totals got him into his first All-Star game. '73 was more of the same although he was being more and more compared unfavorably to Johnny Bench, both in terms of power and on defense (his arm wasn't the best and he was always near the top in passed balls). In '74 his average came in a bit but he put up his first season of over 100 RBIs. Then in '75 he hit .332 to garner sixth place in NL MVP voting in probably his best offensive season. Over the next five seasons he would hit over .300 twice, get three All-Star nods and in '80 win the first Silver Slugger for his position. By then Ted, who was a pretty outspoken guy, had a less than perfect relationship with manager Whitey Herzog and after the '80 season he left St. Louis with Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich for Milwaukee for Sixto Lezcano, Larry Sorenson, Dave LaPoint, and David Green. He left behind ten seasons of averaging .301 with 16 homers and 90 RBIs. He also played in six All-Star games.

In the strike year of '81 Simmons' Brewer career started off slowly with a .216 average. But he got his first post-season action that fall and in '82 revived his stats with a .269 average, 23 homers, and 97 RBIs as he joined the rest of Harvey's Wallbangers in the Series. In '83 Ted had his best season since '75 as he hit .308 with 13 homers and 108 RBIs. In '84 and '85 he would play primarily at DH as his offensive stats began to fade. After that season he was traded to the Braves for Rick Cerrone and a couple minor leaguers. He would play three seasons for Atlanta, mostly as a backup first baseman and pinch hitter before retiring following the '88 season. Ted finished with a .285 average with 248 homers and 483 doubles among his 2,472 hits. He also had 1,389 RBIs and a .348 OBA, all of which rank favorably with HOF catchers' lifetime stats. In 17 post-season games he hit .186 with three homers and eight RBIs. He was an excellent contact hitter only striking out about once every 12 at bats. He is right on the cusp of HOF-worthy performance.

After playing Simmons move to the admin side of baseball, first as director of player development for the Cards ('89 to '92), and then as GM for the Pirates ('92 to '93). In July of '93 he had a heart attack - he was only 44 - which led him to resign from that job and take the rest of the year off. He came back to baseball in '94 as a scout for the Indians through 2000. He then moved to San Diego, first as the player development guy and then as assistant to the GM, which lasted through '07. In '08 he moved back to Milwaukee as bench coast and then did the same in '09 for the Padres. Since late 2010 he has been assistant to the GM for the Mariners.

Ted gets some minor league and defense props in his star bullets. Although he had a bunch of criticism for his D work, he was great at blocking the plate and worked hard to improve his game there. In the mid-'70's he had awfully long hair so would have looked right at home on a hog.

Baltimore was such an intact team back then that these are tough:

1. Simmons and Moe Drabowski '71 to '72 Cards;
2. Drabowski and Jim Palmer '66 to '68 and '70 Orioles;
3. Palmer and Bob Reynolds '72 to '75 Orioles.


  1. I never miss an opportunity to put in my vote for Simba for the HOF!

  2. No matter how many times I see him in a Cardinals uniform, it still looks wrong to me :-P