photo: Ted Simmons (Orlando Ramirez/Imagn)
In a winter happening almost as predictable as the first snowfall, Ted Simmons would again be back in the news.
Any year the Modern Baseball Era Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame was scheduled to meet to evaluate candidates, many articles with a similar focus appeared. Knowledgeable writers and analysts across the country laid out Simmons’ case as to his worthiness to enter the Hall while lamenting that his selection has taken so long.
Finally, on December 8, 2019, the waiting ended. Simmons was voted into the Hall, along with former MLB Players’ Association head Marvin Miller, another who deserved entry long ago. The two, along with the players yet to be voted in on the regular writers’ ballot, will be inducted in Cooperstown, New York on July 26, 2020.
Speaking of the writers’ ballot, its imperfect process is the primary reason why Simmons had to wait so many years. An important purpose of veterans committees such as the one that selected Simmons is to re-evaluate players who slipped through the cracks of the writers’ voting and right prior wrongs.
Simmons qualified for the regular ballot in 1994, but was removed forever afterward. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting members amazingly and inexplicably gave him just 3.7 percent of their vote, with the outcome often called “One and Done”.
That banished Simmons’ chances to the uncertainty of veterans committees. In his most recent prior shot via that route, in 2018, he fell just one vote short of the 12 of 16 needed, creating optimism that 2020 would be his year.
Prior to that, Cardinals fans recognized Simmons’ 13 seasons of greatness with St. Louis by naming him to the team Hall of Fame. This occurred in 2015, in his second year on the fan Modern Era ballot and second year of the Hall. Simmons wears his red jacket proudly and recently announced that a St. Louis logo will be depicted on his cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
In the weeks leading up to the Modern Baseball Era Committee meeting, Simmons sat down with FOX Sports Midwest Cardinals play-by-play man Dan McLaughlin for an extensive interview, covering both his career and his Cooperstown chances. I encourage all to check it out if you haven’t yet seen it.
In the dark days of the 1970’s, Simmons was a constant during many trying years for the Cardinals but was traded to Milwaukee as part of Whitey Herzog’s successful makeover of the roster that led to two World Championships in the 1980s. Simmons’ numerous accomplishments on the field have been documented in many places, but if you want a quick review, click here.
Simmons will become the 50th individual with Cardinals ties to enter Cooperstown. Please keep that in mind as you read on.
Postscript – On the retired number question
The excitement and emotion that follow such an important honor as this have led many to call for Simmons no. 23 to be retired by the Cardinals. As much as I admire and respect Simmons – which I do highly – I am not in favor of the team retiring another number at this time.
The vast majority of the 50 players, managers and executives with ties to the Cardinals to have entered Cooperstown did not receive retired number recognition. This is entirely appropriate, as not all Hall of Famers are equal.
In the past, before the team finally created its own Hall of Fame (a half century later than the Cincinnati Reds, for example), numbers were retired because there was no other obvious approach to recognize greats. In hindsight, it seems clear that a uniform selection process was not followed, creating inequities. But, there can be no “do-overs”. All that can be done is to be objective in the various ways to recognize these individuals going forward.
There has been an important change since 2014. Now that the team Hall exists, it serves as a proper vehicle to honor very important individuals, including ones who may not be in the very top tier of greatness.
What I mean by my latter comment is that players like Hornsby, Musial and Gibson (and later, Pujols) were truly superstars, recognized in countless ways (individually and in team success) not just as Cardinals greats, but also among the very best in the history of Major League Baseball.
These “no-doubters” are the kind of individuals whose numbers should be retired and placed on the outfield wall for eternity, in my view. Here is how I make a complex question simple. If there is any question about whether a number should be retired, the answer should be “no”.
That should not be considered a slight or a snub to anyone. Other Cardinals stars, such as Jim Edmonds, Willie McGee, and yes, Simmons, are being appropriately recognized as members of the team Hall of Fame. That honor should not be taken for granted, nor should the retired number bar be lowered for an individual currently in the news.
In closing, Simmons finally making Cooperstown is clearly one of the very best stories of 2019 across the entire Cardinal Nation. That is plenty to celebrate!
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