Al Simmons was one of the greatest left fielders in baseball history.
He spent most of his career with Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's, and was a major player in Philadelphia's three consecutive pennants from 1929-31, but Al Simmons' first choice was to play for John McGraw's Giants.
Al Simmons Asked for Expenses
"When I was a kid in Milwaukee, I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. And like every other kid in the country, I wanted to play for John McGraw. So I wrote to Roger Bresnahan at Toledo, a Giant farm team, and all I asked for was expenses.
It would have amounted to a hundred and fifty bucks. When Bresnahan refused, I signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and that's where Connie Mack found me."
Two Batting Championships
Known as the Duke of Milwaukee, Simmons averaged 35 home runs in his prime. Over about 20 seasons, he batted .334, with a .380 on base average and a .535 slugging average.
In 1930, one of the most offensive years in baseball, Simmons won the American League batting title with a .381 average. He won again in 1931, hitting .390.
"Foot in the Bucket"
Al Simmons hit with his "foot in the bucket," which meant that instead of the right handed hitter stepping into the pitch with his left foot, he pointed his left foot towards third base, but his body leveled off as he stepped into the pitch.
He took outside pitches, especially curve balls on the outer one-half of the plate, to right field.
Simmons Was Philadelphia's Best Clutch Hitter
The Athletics of the late 1920s and early 1930s shared the spotlight with Lou Gehrig's Yankees.
Philadelphia stars included Jimmy Foxx, Mickey Cochrane, and possibly the greatest of all left handed pitchers, Robert "Lefty" Grove.
Simmons was considered the A's best clutch hitter, which he confirmed many times.
When asked who could provide the most value to a team, Connie Mack replied ""If I could only have nine players named Simmons."
Simmons Ties the Game With a Three-Run Home Run
In a critical game against Washington during the 1930 season, the A's were trailing 6-3 in the first game of a doubleheader.
Simmons came to the plate with the tying runs on base and tied the game with a home run.
Philadelphia won in fifteen innings, but Simmons was forced to sit out the nightcap because he had broken a blood vessel sliding into third base in the first game.
Simmons Could Only Pinch-Hit
A physician examined Simmons between games. He told manager Connie Mack "Simmons is too crippled to play in the second game.
You can use him as a pinch hitter, but he'll have to hit the ball out of the park because he can't run."
Once again Washington was leading in the ninth inning, this time 7-3*, but the bases were loaded with Athletics.
Mr. Mack pointed to Al Simmons.
"Let's see if the doctor knows what he's talking about, Al. Go up there and hit."
Yes, Simmons hit a grand slam home run, the A's scored another run to win, and Philadelphia went on to win the pennant and World Series.
Simmons fell 73 hits short of 3,000, which bothered him the rest of his life.
He regretted leaving one-sided games early and having begged out of games because he consumed too much alcohol the previous night, but not having 3,000 career hits had no effect on Simmons being voted into the Hall of Fame.
After all, neither Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, nor Mickey Cochrane had 3,000 hits.
Poor Fred McGriff.
*New York Times columnist Arthur Daley wrote that the score was 7-3 and Simmons grand slam tied the game, but Baseball library claims that the score was 7-4 and Simmons' home run won the game.
By ARTHUR DALEY. (1956, May 28). Sports of The Times :The Duke of Milwaukee Sidetracked Utility, Not Style Obeying the Doctor. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 31. Retrieved May 22, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 84697908).
Al Simmons at Baseball-Reference
Al Simmons at Baseball Library