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After 20 years, Ted Simmons suits up one more time

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  • After 20 years, Ted Simmons suits up one more time

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/spo...3?OpenDocument


    After 20 years, Ted Simmons suits up one more time
    By Rick Hummel
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    03/03/2008

    MARYVALE, Ariz. — It's not that Ted Simmons, probably the Cardinals' greatest catcher of all time, had been away from baseball after he retired from the Atlanta Braves in 1988. In fact, he had done a little of everything.

    From 1989 to 1991, he was the Cardinals' director of player development. In 1992-93, he was the Pittsburgh Pirates' general manager before a serious heart issue forced him to give that job up.

    Quickly, he was back in the loop in 1994 as a scout and assistant to general manager John Hart in Cleveland. Simmons then went to San Diego, where he spent nine seasons as a top assistant to general manager Kevin Towers.

    But now, at age 58, he has taken the highly unusual step of putting on a uniform for the first time in 20 years. He signed on as the Milwaukee Brewers' bench coach, where he will assist manager Ned Yost, who was soaking up knowledge from Simmons 25 years ago as the backup catcher on a Milwaukee team where Simmons was a star.


    The linchpin in all this was Brewers Vice President Jack Zduriencik, who worked under Simmons in Pittsburgh. Zduriencik broached the idea of Simmons returning to Milwaukee to general manager Doug Melvin, who, in turn, called Towers, who contacted Simmons.

    Simmons thought at first the transfer was a lateral one and wasn't that interested until Towers assured him that the position was on the field. Once assured that Yost was on board with the deal, too, and given the blessing of his wife, Maryanne, and his mother, Simmons was on board as well.

    "To be a bench coach for one of 30 major-league managers, this is the only place I could see that happening," he said.

    "Whether I wanted to do it or not, I (decided) I'd better do it," Simmons said. "Because if I tell them no — and it's been 20 years since anybody's asked — it probably will be the last time I'm ever asked. Four or five years from now, I don't want to look back and wonder."

    Asked what he was thinking when he hired the often opinionated, occasionally off-both-walls Simmons, Melvin said, "We needed somebody to keep us loose during a losing streak." Melvin wasn't entirely kidding.

    The next step for Simmons to complete his baseball cycle would be for him to take over a manager's chair, but Simmons said, "Not right now. People have always brought it up, but I haven't thought about it in a long, long time."

    Yost, the Brewers' manager for the last five years, draws high marks from Simmons.

    "He's got very, very high energy and he's very good at what he does," said Simmons, who recalls testing Yost daily in the early 1980s when one man (Simmons) played for the Brewers and one (Yost) basically sat at the end of the bench in the bullpen.

    "He never got to play because I played all the time," Simmons said. "So I would ask him after the game to name four things which had a direct effect on the outcome."

    Early on, said Simmons, making a grotesque face, Yost had no clue.

    "But," said Simmons, "I said, 'I'm going to ask you these same questions every day.' After about a week, he started having answers."

    Yost says flatly, "I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for what Teddy taught me. Not only did I learn, but I learned the importance of having to learn.

    "I thought you just played baseball. Teddy showed me that there was so much more to this game than what meets the eye. And that if I wanted to go anywhere in this game as a coach, I'd better start paying attention.

    "He told me that people like the (George) Kissells in the Cardinals' organization had schooled him. He said, 'It's my time to help somebody else.'

    "He gave me the base of knowledge he got from them and he got me to start looking at the game as a whole, in a lot more detail than I ever had.

    "His locker room was next to mine, and he told me the first day that he would always have something for me to talk about. And I said, 'Right. Nobody's ever had anything to talk about with me.' But every day he had something different — and we would talk."

    Yost and Melvin are well aware that Simmons has his own mind and will speak it. There was the time he refused to sign a contract with the Cardinals until about midseason one year, and the time in the clubhouse he loudly criticized St. Louis as a bad sports town when Busch Stadium fans had booed him as he struggled while trying to play a strange position, first base.

    A young Post-Dispatch reporter, not sure whether Simmons had meant what he said that night, held off writing that criticism until he showed Simmons a printout the next night. He fully expected Simmons to play the off-the-record card, but Simmons calmly leafed through the transcript, handed it back to the reporter and said, "Have a party."

    Simmons, who got his degree from the University of Michigan some 30 years after he started there, said the other day, "All I've ever asked for is a forum to voice my opinions. Given that forum, I can live with whatever happens. They pay those guys to decide. When I was the general manager, they paid me to decide.

    "They've been very accommodating here. They've made it very easy for me to do this. I've done everything else you can do in baseball. If it doesn't last long here, I can go back to doing any one of a number of things."

    One of the best switch-hitters ever, Simmons had 2,472 hits, 1,389 runs batted in and 248 homers while batting .285 over a 21-season career. He unconscionably was knocked off the baseball writers' Hall of Fame ballot after one election because he fell five votes short of the 24 needed to stay on, but his credentials are well-known. At least they used to be.

    "Fifteen years ago, when I was farm director, a kid came up to me and said, 'Mr. Simmons, did you play?'

    "I don't talk about what I used to be. When that happens to you three or four times, you wake up. The fact that I used to play really isn't that significant."
    Make America Great For Once.

  • #2
    Good for him....

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    • #3
      The hardest hit ball I've ever seen was a line drive home run into dead center field when it was still 414 at Busch II.

      Just an absolute laser.
      Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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      • #4
        I'd love to see the numbers he's hang up if his prime were in today's game.
        Make America Great For Once.

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