USA TODAY Sports Weekly

• Ted Simmons’ catching recognized by peers,

- Dan Schlossber­g

Of the two paths to Cooperstow­n, Ted Simmons took the tougher one.

Unable to garner the necessary 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Associatio­n of America, the former catcher finally caught the attention of the Modern Baseball Era Committee, covering players and personalit­ies from 1970-87.

Simmons and Marvin Miller emerged from strong list of contenders that included former MVPs Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Dave Parker and Dale Murphy, who won the coveted trophy in consecutiv­e years. They were voted on at baseball’s 2019 winter meetings.

Simmons spent 21 years in the majors and drew just 3.7% of the vote – not enough to sustain a spot – in his lone year on the writers’ ballot.

Though Simmons never won an MVP award, the switch-hitter was extremely valuable to his teams, starting with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968. He spent 13 years there before moving to the Milwaukee Brewers and eventually to the Atlanta Braves.

A tough guy who starred in three sports during his days as a star in suburban Southfield, Michigan, Simmons bypassed numerous college football scholarshi­ps to sign with St. Louis after the Cardinals made him a first-round pick in the 1967 amateur draft.

He was 19 when summoned to St. Louis. It made room for him to play more regularly in 1970 by shipping Tim McCarver to the Philadelph­ia Phillies having Joe Torre play some third base.

“Nobody worked harder than Simmons,” Torre said years later. “When he started catching, he was like a bull in a china shop. But he made himself a better defensive player.”

Few catchers in baseball history matched the ability of Simmons to hit for power and average from both sides of the plate (.287-146-873 as a lefty batter; .281-102-516 as a righty). He was also a durable receiver, catching at least 140 games in four seasons.

Overall, he hit .285 with 248 home runs (plus three more in postseason play), started AllStar Games for both leagues and caught 1,771 games, including the only no-hitter thrown by Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. A rare slugger who made good contact, Simmons never struck out more than 57 times in a season. Simmons hit at least .303 five times in his first seven seasons as a full-timer and averaged 17 homers and 90 RBI from 1971-83.

Traded to Milwaukee with Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich in 1980, Simmons immediatel­y tasted his first postseason action in 1981. He reached his only World Series, with the Brewers, in 1982.

Among players who played at least half of their games at catcher, Simmons is second in hits, doubles and RBI and fifth in runs. He had at least 20 homers in six seasons and reached triple digits in RBI in three.

At the time of his retirement, Simmons had more homers (182) than any switch-hitter in National League history.

Panelists who lobbied for him included incumbent Hall of Famer Robin Yount, who played with Simmons in Milwaukee. Other Hall of Famers on the committee were Ozzie Smith, George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley and Eddie Murray.

 ?? AP ?? Ted Simmons got his playoff chance with Brewers.
AP Ted Simmons got his playoff chance with Brewers.
 ?? JEFF CURRY/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Ted Simmons had his number (23) retired at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium in July 2021.
JEFF CURRY/USA TODAY SPORTS Ted Simmons had his number (23) retired at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium in July 2021.

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