Ted Simmons earns election to Hall of Fame

Longtime Cards catcher voted in by the Modern Baseball Era electorate

December 9th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- For Ted Simmons, the fourth time is the charm.

The former Cardinals catcher was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the Modern Baseball Era ballot, announced Sunday at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Candidates must receive votes from at least 75 percent of the ballots to gain election to the Hall, and Simmons received 13 votes from the 16-member electorate (81.3 percent). Former MLBPA director Marvin Miller also was elected on Sunday.

One of the best offensive catchers in baseball history, Simmons had to wait 25 years after his name first appeared on a ballot to get the call. He dropped off the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 1994 after receiving 3.7 percent support (17 votes), and he came just short of election on the Modern Baseball Era ballots the past two years. Simmons is the only player to have been elected by the Veterans Committee who lasted just one ballot with the BBWAA.

“There’s never too long a time to wait if you finally make the leap,” Simmons said on a conference call with reporters Sunday night. “Today I finally did.”

Simmons, 70, played for the Cardinals from 1968-80, and St. Louis is where he earned six of his eight All-Star appearances. There’s only one catcher who has more RBIs than Simmons’ 1,389 -- Yogi Berra has 1,430 -- which means that Simmons drove in more runs than Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza and Iván Rodríguez, who are all in the Hall. Simmons was also second among catchers in doubles (483) and hits (2,472); only Rodríguez (572 doubles and 2,844 hits) had more.

The major force of the Cardinals in the 1970s, Simmons -- nicknamed "Simba" because of his long hair -- debuted as a 19-year-old in 1968, and when he finally broke through as the Cardinals' primary catcher, he earned MVP votes in his first five full seasons. He slashed .298/.366/.459 with an .824 OPS over 13 years in St. Louis, and he caught two no-hitters and finished with a .300 average seven times. He was elected into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2015 as the fan selection.

The Cardinals never made the playoffs while Simmons was there, and in 1980, Simmons was traded to the Brewers, where he played five years and made the playoffs two times. Simmons wasn’t known for his power, but he homered three times in the postseason -- including in back-to-back World Series games in 1982, making him one of six catchers to homer in two straight World Series games. That World Series, ironically, was against the Cardinals, who were the eventual champions.

“On behalf of the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization, I would like to congratulate Ted on this well-deserved honor and his selection among the greats to have ever played the game,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement released by the club. “Since being drafted by the Cardinals as a teenager, Ted Simmons has remained an active contributor to Major League Baseball at many levels both on, and off the field.”

Simmons finished his playing days with three years in Atlanta. He ended his 21-year career having caught 122 shutouts (eighth most all time) and slashed .285/.348/.437, with 248 home runs -- seventh among Hall of Fame catchers. He drew 855 career walks and struck out 694 times -- his career high in strikeouts was 57 in 1972. Simmons accumulated 50.3 WAR in his career, which is in the top 200 among position players all time.

It's widely believed that Simmons would have received a longer look from voters earlier had he not played in the same era as Hall of Fame catchers Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. Simmons is one of nine catchers with 50 or more WAR in their careers. The other eight are all in the Hall.

“I have to be honest, if it weren’t for the analytics people, my career as a potential Hall of Famer probably would have been shut down a long time ago,” Simmons said. “When they start talking about on-base percentage and WAR … then it became a real study. Then the real comparisons started to develop. It’s difficult to match up with people like Bench, who won World Series year in and year out. Fisk, in Boston, having great, great years.

“The comparisons can be -- well, they’re not looked into as thoroughly as they should be. But in the last 20 years, analytics departments have all become so in depth, people have started talking about WAR and what was involved in that. And people started looking at me and revitalized my candidacy for the Hall of Fame.”

No matter how long it took him to get there, Simmons will now join those catchers in Cooperstown. And after his 25-year wait, he couldn’t be more excited about how it turned out.

“When I got under four percent, that was referred to as one and done,” Simmons said. “I’ll be the first one and done to have survived that. It still kind of sits there on your shoulder. … You look forward to it with anticipation and excitement and you end up, if you aren’t selected, filled with disappointment. But that’s over for me now. I couldn’t be happier about it. How am I dealing with it? I say it’s supposed to be just like it was.”

Miller and Simmons will be officially inducted into the Hall along with any Baseball Writers’ Association of America selections at the July 26 induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y. The BBWAA ballot results will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 21, on MLB Network.