By Rob Rains
Ted Simmons is headed to Cooperstown.
The former Cardinals’ catcher, who fell one vote shy of election the last time he was eligible in 2017, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday by a select committee made up of former players, executives and writers.
“This is obviously a great, great day in my life,” Simmons said during a conference call. “When I got the call it was real special.”
The selection was announced as the baseball winter meetings get underway in San Diego. Simmons will be inducted into the Hall during the annual ceremonies next July.
The 16-member committee also elected Marvin Miller, the longtime leader of the Player’s Association. To be selected a candidate had to receive 12 votes, or 75 percent. There were 10 candidates on the ballot. Simmons was named on 13 ballots, one more than Miller.
Simmons, 70, played in the major leagues for 21 years, the first 13 of which were with the Cardinals from 1968 through 1980, when he was traded by Whitey Herzog to the Brewers. He was a first-round pick by the Cardinals in the 1967 draft out of a Michigan high school and made his major-league debut just one year later.
Simmons also played for the Braves before retiring in 1988 and beginning a long career as a coach, scout, farm director and also a general manager for a year with the Pirates in the 1990s.
His election came 25 years after he was first eligible for selection, by the Baseball Writers Association of America, in 1994,
“There’s never too long a time to wait if you finally make the leap and today I finally did,” Simmons said.
An eight-time All-Star, Simmons finished his career with 2,472 hits and eight times logged more than 150 games in a season behind the plate, but he never received the accolades he really deserved in his career for two reasons – he never played in a postseason game with the Cardinals and had the misfortunate timing of spending his career in the same league at the same time as Reds’ Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench.
Yet Simmons finished his career with more hits than Bench and more RBIs. In fact, Simmons is second all-time in baseball history for hits by a catcher, trailing only Ivan Rodriguez, and for RBIs by a catcher, trailing only Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.
Playing in Bench’s shadow, and that of other great catchers of that era such as Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter, was the biggest reason Simmons failed to receive five percent of the vote the only year he was on the writers’ ballot for the Hall of Fame, in 1994, and was dropped from the ballot, forcing him to wait until he got another shot at selection through the veterans committee process. He received just 17 of a possible 456 votes in his only year on the writer’s ballot.
Simmons is the first player elected to the Hall who only lasted one year on the writer’s ballot.
“It’s difficult to match up with people like Bench, who won World Series’ year in and year out, with Fisk in Boston having great great years,” Simmons said. “The comparisons sometimes aren’t as thoroughly looked into as maybe they should be, but in the last 15-20 years, since the analytics departments have all become so in depth, people started talking about WAR and what’s involved with that, and people started looking at me and revitalized my candidacy for the Hall of Fame.”
This was the fourth time Simmons was a candidate for selection by the veterans committee but in all of the previous elections when he was not selected, Simmons said he never for a moment had a chip on his shoulder and although disappointed, was never upset about the results.
“You deal with it just like you do anything else,” he said. “You look forward to it with anticipation and excitement and if you are not selected you deal with disappointment. But that’s over for me now and I couldn’t be happier about it … It was supposed to be just like it was.
“I tell people all the time, I’ve lived a charmed life. When I was a little boy I wanted to be a major-league baseball player just like millions and millions of other little boys. I got to do that, it happened to me. So in past years when I was not elected to the Hall of Fame I couldn’t in good conscious walk around with a ‘chip on my shoulder’ angry at people because I wasn’t put in earlier. … If I had spent one second walking around grieving or angry I would have been ashamed of myself. My life has been way too good.”
The baseball winter meetings officially will begin on Monday, and here’s a couple of other notes concerning the Cardinals:
The Cardinals’ front-office contingent will do a lot of talking during the next four days with agents and officials of other teams, but it is not likely they will make any significant moves. Even though there are several quality free-agent starting pitchers available, the size and length of the contract likely will keep the Cardinals from making any deals.
Also, the Cardinals are pleased with Carlos Martinez’s work so far this winter and project that he will be able to fill the open spot in their starting rotation for next season. Even if Martinez has a setback the team is high on Ryan Helsley as a starting candidate and also will bring Daniel Ponce de Leon and Austin Gomber to spring training as starters, not to mention the wild card of next year’s staff, Alex Reyes.
It’s also unlikely the Cardinals will make a big move for a position player, as they have said they are committed to giving their young outfielders a shot at starting in 2020.
The Cardinals, barring a move, will be sitting out of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday as they currently have a full 40-man roster and there do not appear to be any serious candidates to be selected from the Cardinals by other teams. It is possible the Cardinals will be involved in the minor-league portion of that draft.
Manager Mike Shildt will hold his session with the media on Tuesday.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains