Al Simmons

Connie Mack kept only one picture of a former player in his office, and it was of the swaggering, hard-hitting Al Simmons. Once, when asked who could provide the most value to a team, Mack reflected on half a century of managing and sighed, “If I could only have nine players named Simmons.” Late in his career Simmons announced his goal of attaining 3,000 base hits. He played beyond when he should have retired but still came up 73 short. Looking back, he grieved about the times he had begged off playing to nurse a hangover or left a one-sided game early for a quick shower and a night’s pleasures. Proud of his Polish ancestry, Simmons, as a grizzled coach, imparted his realization to another player from a Polish family. “Never relax on any time at bat; never miss a game you can play,” he advised a young Stan Musial. On the field Simmons was a warrior, intent on damaging the enemy and demolishing pitchers with his bat, stifling rallies with his glove, and upsetting infielders with take-out slides. Despite playing most of his career before night games became customary, Simmons never seemed to tan. In fact, his most evident physical characteristic was his pale complexion. His face would grow whiter as he concentrated on a tense situation. In the most exciting rally in WS history, Philadelphia came from behind the Cubs, who led 8-0 in the seventh inning of Game Four of the 1929 World Series. It was Simmons who led off the inning with a home run. By the time Simmons batted again in the inning the Athletics trailed only by one run. He singled to keep the WS-record 10-run inning alive. Once Simmons burst a blood vessel in his knee in the first game of a doubleheader. The team doctor didn’t want to leave and thus miss the second game, so he advised keeping Simmons available on the bench for possible pinch hitting. Eventually, with the A’s trailing 7-4, they filled the bases and summoned Simmons, who limped to the plate. He avoided having to run by hitting a grand slam. Simmons was described as a hitter who put his foot “in the bucket,” striding with a natural step toward third base. Although that is generally considered a technical flaw, Connie Mack would not let anyone tell the righthanded slugger to change his style. The long-armed Simmons, using a longer bat than most players, could still hit with power to any field. With long uniform sleeves dangling below the elbows, he was a player of singular skills who could be spotted on the ball field by his unique style and appearance. Simmons’s greatest years were with Connie Mack‘s Athletics, where, as an emerging great, he teamed one season with two other outfielders then in the twilight of their careers, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.

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