Yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting with legendary Phillies’ left-handed pitcher Curt Simmons. I met with Simmons, a native of Egypt, PA, at his home and discussed, at length, the 1950 Whiz Kids, his roots in the Lehigh Valley, and the Phillies Nation Top 100 countdown.
The full-length interview will air on an upcoming television program by FireRock Productions, a multiple-time Emmy and ADDY-winning production company in the Lehigh Valley. Some of the excerpts below, and much more, will appear in a project Pat Gallen and I are working on.
We do not want to give the whole interview away, as we shot a ton of footage with Mr. Simmons, but I thought it would be neat to share some of Simmons’ thoughts on some of his teammates he played with that also made the Phillies Nation Top 100. For those keeping track at home, Simmons ranked #17 on our countdown.
You will want to stay tuned for the full interview where Simmons and I talk about what it was like to play for Babe Ruth against a team managed by Ty Cobb, having to leave the Phillies in September 1950, and what it was like to be on the Cardinals in 1964, chasing down the Phillies just a few years after the Phillies cut him loose.
On the Whiz Kids
“In 1950, everybody got together and most of the guys had good years, ya know? That’s what got us past the Dodgers. They were the cream of the crop, in those days. We got rolling and a lot of guys had good years. That’s what it takes – to get ‘em all going. You can’t have two guys with good years and the rest of the guys slushing along. (A pennant-winning team) doesn’t work like that.”
“A real good hitter. A clutch hitter. Good fielder with a good arm. A real rough, tough guy. He was one of our stars in those days.”
On the best player that didn’t make the Top 100, according to Simmons, Jim Konstanty
“In those days, Jim was our so-called closer but in those days, he would pitch, three innings, four innings, ya know, whatever it took. And he won 15 games, and a few of them (laughter) were probably my games when we rallied late in the games. He had a great year, one of the top players for sure.”
“Robbie and I were neighbors in Abington Township at the time. In ’50, he blossomed to be the ace and I started coming on finally, knocking down my base on balls and stuff and relaxing and pitching, having a great year. He was a real bulldog, he was a fighter.”
“(Ashburn) could run ‘em down. He was an outstanding center fielder.”
“You could be assured Ennis would drive in 100 runs every year. He was a tough guy – the one time, he comes back to the dugout and says, ‘(The pitcher) hit me with that pitch.’ The umpire didn’t see it, of course, but (Ennis) didn’t say anything, he wanted to hit! He was a good player.”
“Andy Seminick was a tough older guy (note: Seminick was 29 for most of the 1950 season, making him at least four years older than the Whiz Kids’ five most used starting pitchers and among their oldest regular players). You know, they talk now about blocking the plate, he would block the plate even before the ball got there and nail the guy at home. He had a great year in 1950, as well. There was no tension between him and Stan Lopata about playing time at catcher.”
On Stan Lopata (Ranked #49)
“Stan was not a rookie but came up in 1948 and Seminick was the head guy but then broke his ankle. (Lopata) had a lot of home runs and developed into a great player. I think he led the league in triples (among catchers) a few times. Not a lot of catchers could run but he could! He immitated Musial at the plate later on; Musial did it from the left side and Stan did it from the right side. (Lopata) started crouching and he really started to hit the ball, his hitting really improved.”
“I’d see (Allen) at these old-timer events and (Allen) would say ‘I could never hit you!’ and I would say ‘Don’t give me that stuff!’ I can’t remember but apparently I got him out quite a bit. He was a strong guy, he was a great hitter for sure.”
(Note: Allen hit .378/.478/.568 for his career against Simmons. Allen must be very modest.)
Favorite Memories as a Hitter
“I only had one home run. It was an inside-the-park home run; it was an outstanding thing. I used to be able to run, believe it or not! I was a skinny guy, 180, 190 lbs, 180 lbs in those days. Bobby Del Greco was 18 and playing for Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh in those years had a lot of rookies playing. I hit a line drive to center field and he came in on the ball, so I must have hit it pretty good. I circled the bases standing up!”
“Yes, I did allow only one run in Game 3 of the 1964 World Series and I had the RBI, too! When I left the game it was 1-1. They replaced me in the 9th inning for a pinch hitter, which was the right move. I heard the crowd at Yankee Stadium get loud, turned into a roar as I was in the hallway headed to the locker room. I thought maybe Barney Schultz left the ball up and gave up a single. The crowd got louder and I thought it was a double. I guess his knuckleball didn’t knuckle and Mickey Mantle apparently hit a tremendous home run.”
On the best pitcher he saw throw or faced as a hitter
“There were a lot of good pitchers in those days. Warren Spahn, he was left-handed, he was outstanding. Then, of course, there was Roberts. Then when I went to St. Louis, Bob Gibson and of course Steve Carlton was just beginning when I was leaving there and he turned out to be an outstanding pitcher, too. So those guys, I saw their action pretty good, they were great pitchers.”