Simmons reflective, thankful in first full day as Hall of Famer
Simmons, along with acclaimed labor leader Marvin Miller, became the first two members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2020 on Dec. 8. Miller passed away at the age of 95 on Nov. 27, 2012 in Manhattan, New York. The election of Simmons and Miller brings the total to 331 elected members of the Cooperstown shrine.
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The two electees were among the nine former big league players and one executive that comprised the 10-name Modern Baseball Era ballot that was voted upon at the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego. The Modern Baseball Era (1970-87) is one of four Eras Committees which provide an avenue for Hall of Fame consideration to managers, umpires and executives, as well as players retired for more than 15 seasons.
“We welcome you to Cooperstown, we welcome you to your new team, and we ask you to put on the jersey of your new team,” Clark said to Simmons.
“How’s it look?” Simmons whispered to Clark.
“It looks pretty good,” she replied with a smile.
Simmons played on three big league teams, but his fourth is star-studded.
Clark also had high praise for the other recently elected Hall of Famer, adding: “Marvin Miller served as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association for 17 years beginning in 1966. More than 50 years later, his work has now impacted more than half of all those players ever to wear a major league uniform. He ushered in a new era of players’ rights and his legacy is strong today seven years after his passing. And we are so happy that Marvin is joining us in Cooperstown as part of the Class of 2020.”
The owner of a career .285 batting average, the switch-hitter also totaled 248 home runs, 1,389 RBI, and 2,456 big league games.
“I’d like to thank the Modern Era Committee that brought me here today. I just decided they’ve all become my very best and favorite friends,” Simmons joked at the start. “Of course, it means everything to me. I’ll not forget them for making this all happen.”
Simmons, surprisingly, lasted only one year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, receiving 3.7 percent in 1994.
Simmons, an eight-time All-Star, never struck out more than 57 times in one season and finished 10 seasons with more walks than strikeouts. Among major leagues who played at least 50 percent of their games as a catcher, he ranks second all-time in hits, doubles and RBI. He collected at least 90 RBI eight times, drove in at least 100 three times, and batted at least .300 on seven different occasions.
“It was really the sabermetrics people who really revived my candidacy,” Simmons recalled. “When I was essentially one-and-done, for the lack of a better phrase, people started examining that. They started looking at the numbers and making the comparisons. And then the discussions started. Pretty soon people were walking up to me and saying things like, ‘Did you know … ?’
“Pretty soon people were coming up a lot and they were talking to each other. And then they started talking to everybody. It just grew. The sabermetric people brought me back to life.”
Asked about his patience during the long process, Simmons explained to the crowd that it’s what makes the Hall of Fame so unique and special.
“It may sound so trite because it’s used so often, but it’s a hard place to get into. And it should be,” he said. “There’s no reason for me to feel in any way, shape or form that my journey to this place is any more or any less than anybody else’s. It is hard. It’s an excruciating wait. And until it happens for you, you just can’t describe what it’s like.”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum