It was a long wait to be elected and another long wait to be inducted, but the day has finally come for one of the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ted Simmons was elected by the Modern Baseball Era Committee back in December of 2019 but it wasn’t until now that he could enjoy an actual day in the sun at Cooperstown.
His 21-year career, spent mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, was certainly deserving, especially with modern analytics providing a stronger case for just how good “Simba” was.
The switch-hitting catcher compiled a .285 batting average, 2,472 hits, 483 doubles, 248 home runs and 1,389 RBI. He garnered MVP votes seven times in his career and finished among his league’s top 10 players in batting average six times. Simmons 193 hits in 1975 are the most of any catcher who caught at least 150 games in a season, and his 192 hits in 1973 rank second on that same list. Among those who played at least 50 percent of their games at catcher, Simmons ranks second in hits, second in doubles, second in RBI and fifth in runs scored.
Simmons appeared in eight All-Star games during his career so here’s a list of eight cards that help chronicle it.
1970 Topps Cardinals Postcard
Simmons actually appeared in his first big league game as a teenager during the Cardinals’ pennant-winning 1968 season but it wasn’t until 1970 that he saw regular playing time, platooning with Joe Torre behind the plate. While his first Topps card wouldn’t arrive until the following spring, a very youthful Simmons appears in the Cardinals’ postcard set, which was sort of a “living” set distributed to fans who contacted the team. It’s pretty rare, but the non-traditional distribution has meant it’s generally affordable when available.
1971 Topps #117 Rookie Card
Still relatively unknown to baseball fans, Simmons got his first Topps card in Series 1 of the 1971 set. It was the year he took over as the Cards’ starting catcher as Torre moved to first base. Simmons didn’t disappoint, hitting .304 and driving in 77 runs.
Higher grade examples of his rookie card took a significant jump in value after he was elected to the Hall of Fame as the condition-sensitive ’71 set added another inductee. They are, at least, readily available in all grades.
1972 Topps #154
Simmons played the first few months of the season without a contract after the Cardinals refused to give him the raise he wanted but finally settled for around $70,000 for two years. The issue didn’t hamper his ability. He hit .303, with 16 homers and 96 RBI and set team records for home runs (16), RBIs (96), and hits (180) for a catcher.
His second year Topps card is from Series 2 and with tons of them available, prices for all but the highest grades are modest.
1974 Topps Deckle Edge #10
The star-studded and scarce ’74 Deckle Edge set now has another Hall of Famer.
’74 was the year in which Simmons had the first of his six 20-homer seasons. He also drove in 103 runs and struck out just 35 times in 662 plate appearances, helping the Cardinals stay in the division race until the final days of the season.
The Deckle Edge card is among Simmons’ toughest issues and there are two back variations (gray and white).
1975 Topps #75
Simmons was simply one of the best hitters in baseball by 1975. He hit .332, second only to Bill Madlock. He slugged 18 homers and rove in 100 runs, while setting a National League record for most hits by a catcher with 188.
Known for his long hair, the ’75 card from Topps is a great low-angle shot that shows Simba in all of his 70s glory. Tough to find in high grade, prices for those cards reflect that fact, but a solid, ungraded example is still within easy reach.
1980 Topps #85
Simmons’ tenure with the Cardinals ended after the 1980 season, when he was shipped to Milwaukee in a major trade. That year, he won the first Silver Slugger Award at catcher, hitting .303 with 21 homers and 98 RBI.
Topps chose a game action shot of Simmons, pictured with his mask off and cap turned backwards. It’s a fitting tribute to his ten years behind the plate as a steady, reliable presence in the lineup and most nice raw copies can still be had for a buck or two.
1982 Brewers Police
After a rough start to his Brewers career, Simmons was a key player in the Brewers’ run to the franchise’s first World Series, where they ironically lost to the Cardinals. After a rough start and some acrimonious dealings with manager Buck Rodgers, Simmons and the Brewers got going under new manager Harvey Kuenn.
“Police sets” came to Wisconsin just in time for the Brewers’ run to an American League pennant and were a collecting staple for most of the next three decades. Simmons is one of three Hall of Famers in this regional set, along with Robin Yount and Paul Molitor.
1989 Upper Deck #570
After a few more years in Milwaukee, Simmons wound up in Atlanta where he finished in sort of a player/unofficial coach role. He retired after the 1988 season, but was included on three different sets in ’89, including Upper Deck.
The newfangled Upper Deck product marked a new era in collecting and put an appropriate bow on Simmons’ career, which spanned almost the entirety of two decades. It’s one you can own for some spare change.
Simmons would soon become a full-time coach and later a general manager and scout before capping his career with a memorable Hall of Fame speech.
You can check out all of Ted Simmons’ baseball cards, from past to present on eBay here.