Simmons an offensive force in time with Cards
Former backstop among nominees for club's Hall of Fame; voting ends Tuesday
Tim McCarver knew what was coming -- his teammates made sure of it.
As his first stint with the Cardinals was winding down, McCarver's St. Louis teammates, pitcher Bob Gibson among the worst offenders, made sure he was well aware of a young catcher making noise among the club's Minor League ranks.
"On that Cardinal team, we had a bunch of guys who would not allow you to rest one minute," said McCarver, a Cards catcher from 1959-69. "They would put articles about Ted Simmons in my locker all the time about him in the Minor Leagues, about him doing well."
Even without the playful reminders from his teammates, McCarver couldn't help but notice Simmons' potential.
"I was fully aware that Ted Simmons was not only capable, but in many ways, much more capable than me because of the way he swung the bat," McCarver said. "I knew that there was only one place for him to go in the Major Leagues and that was up."
And as he predicted, McCarver was out as the Cardinals catcher after 1969, and Simmons was in. Over the next 11 seasons, Simmons would go on to become one of the best hitting catchers in Cards history, earning eight All-Star nods, a Silver Slugger Award and, most recently, a nomination for the new Cardinals Hall of Fame.
From now until Tuesday, fans can go to cardinals.com/HOF to vote for up to two of the eight modern candidates -- Simmons, Joe Torre, Jim Edmonds, Willie McGee, Bob Forsch, Keith Hernandez, Mark McGwire or Matt Morris.
The two leading vote-getters will be enshrined during an Aug. 16 ceremony at Ballpark Village, joining the 22 Cardinals who received automatic induction because they are either already in the National Baseball Hall of Fame or have had their number retired by the club.
Simmons played 1,564 games with the Cards from 1968-80. He served in a platoon with Torre in 1970 before taking over full-time catching duties when the club moved Torre to third base in '71.
Simmons was selected to six All-Star teams over his 13 seasons in St. Louis. He also set the National League record for catchers with 188 hits in 1975 and won a Silver Slugger Award in 1980.
With his long hair and his fiery persona, Simmons could best be described as "different," Torre said with a chuckle.
"He was such a pure hitter, that's the one thing I admire," Torre said. "He was a little crude behind the plate, but he was such an aggressive, confident individual that you couldn't do anything but just admire his dedication."
When McCarver returned to St. Louis in 1973, the rate at which line drives fired off Simmons' bat left an immediate impression.
"I had never played with a player who hit more line drives, who hit more balls hard than any other year than in 1973 and watching Ted Simmons hit," McCarver said. "A guy with his power, you would think he'd have more [home runs], but he put the ball in play usually on the line and he didn't have a lot of lift to his swing. He was going to hit some home runs [248 in his career], but not as many home runs as his power dictated."
Although McCarver may have been the better defensive option behind the plate, the Cardinals opted for Simmons' prowess with the bat to boost their lineup in addition to the intangibles he brought to the club.
"You would have to go a long way to be as good as Timmy [McCarver] as far as calling a game from the plate," Torre said. "I think Teddy learned that as he went along, but he was a leader. He'd kick the pitcher on the rear end or pat him on back. He sort of had a sense of what that particular guy needed, but he was a bulldog. He just thrived on the competition."
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.