Al Simmons- a Hitting Machine

Al Simmons was nicknamed “Ol Bucketfoot” for the way that the right-handed hitter would step towards third base as the pitch came in; this was known as putting your foot “in the bucket”. Flawed swing or not, Al Simmons used a longer bat than most and he destroyed most of the pitching that was thrown his way. Over the course of his twenty years in the majors, Al Simmons hit over .330 and knocked in over 1,800 runs! Of all the players that the legendary Connie Mack managed as the owner/ skipper of the Philadelphia Athletics, spanning half a century, the only picture of one that he kept in his office was of Al Simmons.

Al Simmons was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 22nd, 1902. In the majors at the age of 22 in 1924, Al Simmons knocked in 102 runs during his rookie season for Mack and the Athletics. It was only the tip of the iceberg in what was to be, as Al Simmons would dominate the pitching of the American League for another fourteen seasons before age and injury would catch up to him. Before it did however, Al Simmons was as good a run producer as anyone that has played the game of baseball.

Following up his first year in the pros, Al Simmons had a marvelous sophomore campaign. The fleet-footed outfielder hit a blistering .387, with 24 homers and 129 runs batted in. The Athletics also had a great catcher in Mickey Cochrane, but it would not be until Mack added pitchers Lefty Grove, George Earnshaw, and Rube Walberg, plus slugger Jimmie Foxx, that they would become champions.

Battering the offerings of the American League’s pitchers, Al Simmons knocked in at least 107 runs for the next three years. He hit .392 in 1927, but lost the batting title to Detroit’s Harry Heilmann. The son of Polish immigrants, Al Simmons, whose real last was Szymanski until he changed it, never seemed to be able to get a tan; his pale complexion was his trademark physical characteristic. Opposing hurlers would turn green though when Al Simmons came to the plate. In 1929, Al Simmons had one of his best years, hitting .365 with 34 homers and 157 runs batted in. The Athletics finally unseated New York as pennant winners after having chased them for the previous seasons. 21 year old Jimmie Foxx contributed 118 RBI and 33 homers, and the pitching of Grove, Earnshaw, and Walberg was terrific. Grove went 20-6 to Earnshaw’s 24-8, and the Athletics and Al Simmons won the pennant by a resounding 18 games over New York.

In the 1929 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, Mack surprised everyone when he named 35 year old Howard Ehmke as the Game One starter. Howard had told the manager, “Mr. Mack, I think I have one good game left in me”, and he wasn’t lying as he shut down the Cubbies, fanning 13 and winning 3-1. Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx went 5 for 9 between them in Game Two, knocking in seven runs; each had a home run as the A’s breezed 9-3 to go up two games to none. The Series headed to Philly, where Guy Bush pitched the Cubs over Earnshaw and the A’s by a 3-1 score.

The fourth game of the 1929 World Series is one of the most famous in the sport’s history, in large part because of Al Simmons. Mack started Jack Quinn, who gave up six runs. When two relievers gave up another couple, the score was 8-0 heading to the bottom of the seventh, one of the most incredible innings in all of baseball lore. Al Simmons led off with a home run, putting a slight smile on Connie Mack’s face. By the time the inning ended, one could not blame Mack if he looked like the Joker from Batman. The Athletics began to hit everything, and with a couple of misjudged fly balls by Cubs outfielder Hack Wilson tossed in for good measure, Al Simmons came up to the plate again in the seventh, now with the score at 8-6. Al Simmons singled, and later scored, as the Athletics tallied ten times and won the contest 10-8. The deflated Cubs could not hold a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the ninth the next day. Al Simmons doubled after Mule Haas had tied the game with a two-run homer in the final frame, and he scored the Series-winning run when Ping Miller doubled him home.

The 1930 Philadelphia Athletics cruised to the American League flag by 8 games over the surprising Senators, with Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx combining for 73 home runs and 321 RBI! Al Simmons won his first of consecutive batting titles with a .381 mark; he would hit .390 the next year. The Cardinals were the Series opponent this time, and the Fall Classic opened in Philadelphia. The teams split the first four games, and then the Athletics won the pivotal fifth tilt behind Earnshaw and Grove. Earnshaw came back two days later, and with Al Simmons hitting a home run to aid the cause, beat St. Louis 7-1 to clinch another World Title.

Al Simmons had hit .364 in the 1930 World Series. The A’s went an astounding 107-45 the next year,in 1931, but lost the title to the Cardinals in a seven game affair that saw outfielder Pepper Martin run wild on the bases. Al Simmons did his part with a .333 average and a couple of homers, but Earnshaw could not win the deciding game, losing to St. Louis by a 4-2 score.
Like a machine, Al Simmons had another fantastic season in 1932 as the 30 year old outfielder hit .322 and sent over 150 runs scampering home. Connie Mack began to sell off all his stars as was his habit, and Al Simmons was sent to the White Sox, where he enjoyed six more very productive years. He finished his playing days with the Athletics once more, after stints with four other teams. 3,000 hits eluded Al Simmons, who finished with 2,927, just 73 short of the benchmark number. He would later bemoan the fact that he often left routs early or missed games because he had been out the night before, costing him his goal, but not reaching 3,000 base hits could not diminish what Al Simmons had accomplished in baseball.

In 14 of his 20 years in the game, Al Simmons hit over .300. He hit below .331 only twice in his first 11 seasons, and Al Simmons batted in at least 100 runs 12 of his first 13 years in baseball. Al Simmons won those 2 batting crowns in 1930 and ’31, and he had 200 or more hits in a season 6 times. Al Simmons was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953; he would die of a heart attack three years later at the age of 54 in Milwaukee. Connie Mack was asked before he retired from managing at the age of 87 in 1950 what it would take to have a great team. The old man thought for only a second and said, “If I could only have nine players named Simmons.”

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