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Philly Dream Series

Interview With Clifton Parker, Biographer of Philadelphia A’s Hall of Famer Al Simmons

Posted by Johnny Goodtimes, Thu, November 07, 2013 03:00 PM Comments: 0

bucketfoot-al-baseball-life-simmons-clifton-blue-parker-paperback-cover-artAl Simmons was named MVP of the Philly Dream Series after a terrific hitting performance topped off with the Series-winning walk-off hit in Game 7. It was cool that Simmons had such a great Series. He is one of the greatest baseball players to ever play in Philadelphia, and because the A’s moved out of town, his achievements have kind of been lost to time. Part of the point of the whole project was to bring some of those A’s greats (5 of whom are in the Hall of Fame, including Connie Mack) back to life, at least in a baseball sense.

Incredibly, despite being one of the best players in the “Golden Era” of baseball, Al Simmons had never had a biography written about him until 2011. That’s when Clifton Blue Parker decided to do one on the A’s legend. Titled Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons, you can purchase it here. I spoke with Clifton about the enigmatic, hard playing, hard living outfielder of whom Connie Mack once wished, “If I could only have nine players named Simmons.” 

What inspired you to write the book?

My grandfather and great grandfather were doctors in North Carolian who helped the A’s built their minor league field. I had a picture of my grandfather with Connie Mack at that stadium. I also had a ball autographed by Connie Mack that he had given my great-grandfather. I always had an interest in the team. A team that was arguably better than the ’27 Yankees. And I saw that they weren’t always given their due.

Why Al Simmons?

What I like to do is to cover ground that people haven’t covered before. Simmons was probably the greatest player out there statistically who had never had a full length book written about him. To me, it’s exciting to work on a book that is shining a light on one of the best players of all time.

What kind of upbringing did Simmons have? Continue reading Interview With Clifton Parker, Biographer of Philadelphia A’s Hall of Famer Al Simmons

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Al Simmons, Lefty Grove Lead A’s to Game 7 Victory and Dream Series Championship

Posted by Johnny Goodtimes, Mon, November 04, 2013 07:00 PM Comments: 0

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Mule Haas comes home with the winning run following an Al Simmons double.

In 1954, Roy Mack went against his father’s wishes to sell the Philadelphia A’s to Kansas City real estate developer Arnold Johnson. He made a few more bucks than he would have had he sold the team to a Philly conglomerate that almost bought it at the time (In fact the papers were signed; Roy reneged on the deal). But by selling his father’s soul for a few pieces of gold, he lessened the impact that the greatest pro sports team in Philadelphia history had on this city. He left greats like Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, and Al Simmons without an eternal home, allowing their names to get swept away by the winds of time instead of being honored in the city where they reached heights never again attained by any team in Philadelphia.

But on this day, in Game 7 of the Philly Dream Series, those three men returned to the forefront of the Philadelphia baseball world, and once again proved why they are among the greatest players this city has ever seen in any sport. Grove, beaten in Games 1 and 5, pitched a gem on only two days rest. Foxx delivered one of his vintage home runs to the deepest recesses of center field in the 2nd inning. And Al Simmons, a player who always had a fickle relationship with this city even when he was a star here, had no problem winning the adoration of the Shibe Park faithful on this day. It was Simmons who, with one out and two on in the bottom of the 9th, hit a scorcher down the left field line, past the glove of Pedro Feliz and into the corner, scoring Mule Haas and sending the Shibe denizens into a state of pandemonium. For Haas, there was a certain sense of deja vu…he had also scored the winning run in the 5th and deciding game of the 1929 World Series.

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Jimmie Foxx waits on deck before smashing a homer in the 2nd.

The A’s spectacular finish somewhat overshadowed the gutsy pitching performance of Cole Hamels. Pitching on only two days rest for the first time in his career, he was sublime, holding the A’s to 1 run and only 5 hits in 8 innings of work. Remarkably, he got better as the game went on, allowing only one hit after the 4th inning. That left some Phillies faithful wondering why he was pulled after the 8th, having thrown 90 pitches.

His opposing hill-minder Lefty Grove was dominant for 7 innings, but ran into problems in the 8th after giving up a walk to Jayson Werth to start the inning. Werth stole 2nd, went to third on a long Utley fly ball, and came home when a Ryan Howard shot was caught by Mule Haas just shy of the warning track. Haas, known for his great arm, fired a rocket home, but Werth was able to slide in under the tag and tie the game at 1. After surrendering a single to Pat Burrell, Grove was replaced by Ossie Orwoll, one of the unsung heros of the A’s in this series. He coaxed Shane Victorino into a harmless fly ball. The A’s went down quietly in the 8th, and we headed to the 9th tied at 1.

Mack threw the Phils for a total loop when he inserted Eddie Rommel into the game to pitch the top of the 9th. The knuckleballer, who won 27 games for an A’s team that won only 65 all season in 1922, stymied the Phils attack. Forcing the Phils to try to hit a knuckleball after chasing Lefty Grove’s fastball all day was a cruel trick played by the Tall Tactician, and the men in red went down quietly.

J.C. Romero came into pitch in the bottom of the 9th, and it was pesky little Max Bishop who got the A’s rally started with a single off the Phillies left-handed specialist. Haas then sent a roller to Utley. The Phils tried to turn two, but Haas beat the throw to first. Romero then walked Mickey Cochrane, sending Simmons to the plate. Charlie Manuel walked out onto the hill, and in a move that will be second guessed by Phillies fans for years to come, decided to send for Ryan Madson instead of Brad Lidge. Manuel was always extremely conservative when it came to his closer, but there are plenty of Phils fans who would say that this is why you pay the closer the big bucks, to put out fires like this one.

Mack White Elephants win the Philly Dream Series in 7!

Mack’s White Elephants win the Philly Dream Series in 7!

The count ran to 2-2 when Madson decided to toss his four seam fastball. Simmons put the barrel of the bat on it. Pedro Feliz dove but never had a shot. Burrell chased it into the corner, but by the time he got there, it was obvious that the game and the Series were over. The A’s erupted out of the dugout as Mule Haas crossed the plate.

The Phillies had put up a far better fight than anyone had thought they would. But in the end, the A’s simply had too much Mule, too much Lefty, too much Mickey, too much Double X. And they had a man born with the name Aloyz Szymanski who was one of the finest ballplayers this city has ever seen, and did a damn fine job of proving it on a Monday afternoon in North Philadelphia.

GAME NOTES: You can check out the boxscore and play by play here…Al Simmons was named Series MVP. After a slow start, he finished the Series 12-24 in the final 5 games, including the Series winning hit in Game 7…Mule Haas also had a monster Series, going 8-23 in the final 5 games, collecting four doubles and a homer…hitting stars for the Phillies were Jimmy Rollins (.310), Pat Burrell (.318) and Carlos Ruiz (.320). Utley and Howard both had disappointing Series. Utley went 4-24 (.166) and Howard went 4-30 (.133) though he did amass 7 RBIs. Howard was absolutely helpless against Lefty Grove. In three games against him, he went 0-11 with 8 strikeouts…Discussions are already in place for a matchup for next year. Possibly the 1980 Phils vs. the 1911 A’s? We shall see.

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Philly Dream Series Game 7 Preview

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, November 04, 2013 11:00 AM Comments: 0

Johnny Goodtimes, Dr. Bruce Kuklick and Corey Seidman preview Game 7 of the Philly Dream Series pitting the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies against the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. They discuss the third and final meeting between Lefty Grove and the A’s and Cole Hamels and the Phillies.

It’s Game 7. What more do you need to say?

Well, one disclaimer, we honestly didn’t contrive the series to go seven games, the computer simulated the drama all on its own. Enjoy!

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A’s Win Game 6 in a Shootout

Posted by Johnny Goodtimes, Sun, November 03, 2013 09:00 PM Comments: 0

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Ryan Howard cracks a double in the first inning.

This piece is a continuation of our Philly Dream Series between the 1929 Philadelphia A’s and the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies. For more info on this series, click here. To see the results of the first 5 games, click here.

In 1985, Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns met in the middle of the ring, neither harboring any intentions of having the fight go the distance. There was no defense, no sweet science, just two street brawlers determined to knock the other one out. And so it went in Game 6 of this Phillies Dream Series. There are no superlative pitching performances or sterling defensive plays to discuss, merely a recounting of a back alley brawl, with both gangs bashing the other with heavy lumber. It was the A’s who recorded the knockout punch in the 9th, escaping from the street fight with a few bruises but living to fight another day with a 10-8 victory.

Both sides came out swinging in the first, with Al Simmons knocking in Max Bishop with a single. In the bottom of the first, Ryan Howard finally got involved in the Series, cracking a George Earnshaw pitch off the right field wall for a double to knock in two. Pat Burrell followed that up with a single to score Howard, and the fans at CBP, sensing a Phillies Series win, were delirious. Continue reading A’s Win Game 6 in a Shootout

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Philly Dream Series Game 6 Preview

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, November 03, 2013 01:07 PM Comments: 0

Johnny Goodtimes, Dr. Bruce Kuklick and Corey Seidman are back to preview Game 6 of the Philly Dream Series, pitting the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies against the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. They discuss why Al Simmons committed a crucial error in Game 5 and how Ryan Howard can rebound after an 2-23 start to the Series.

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Phillies Edge A’s to Move Within One Win of Upset in the Series

Posted by Johnny Goodtimes, Fri, November 01, 2013 06:15 PM Comments: 2

Dubee settles Hamels down in the first.

Dubee settles Hamels down in the first.

The headline of most baseball games is a nucleus from which the story can then fan out…Hamels dominant, A’s destroy Blanton, Mickey Cochrane takes over. Then there are those strange games that have no true core. Where pitchers become hitters, great defenders botch routine plays in the field, and one team comes in like a lion and goes out like a mouse. No ebb, no flow, just seemingly a strange sequence of random events. Game 5 was one of those games, and when the curtain finally came down on this theatre of the absurd, it was the Phillies who were victorious by a score of 4-3.

 The Phils got to Lefty Grove in the first, as Chase Utley brought Jayson Werth home with a line drive double to center. But the A’s responded in the bottom of the initial frame, and made it appear to the Shibe Park faithful that the same steamroller that had run over the Phils in South Philly had made its way up Broad and taken a left on Lehigh.

Two runs and four hits, capped off by a screaming double from Al Simmons, were recorded before Hamels had registered a single out, and it looked as if the A’s were too formidable for even the Phillies’ finest arm. But a Rich Dubee visit to the mound seemed to calm Hamels down, and he struck out Jimmie Foxx to get his first out. He got Bing Miller to fly out to shallow center before issuing a free pass to Jimmy Dykes. With the bases juiced Hamels coerced Joe Boley into a routine grounder to 2nd. But Chase Utley bobbled it, and by the time he was able to strangle the squirtbug, all runners were safe and Cochrane had scored to make it 3-1 A’s. Fortunately for Hamels, the next batter up was Lefty Grove, a career .148 hitter, and Hamels struck him out to end the inning before things got out of control. But he had thrown 38 pitches in the inning, and the Phils were lucky to only be down two after one. Continue reading Phillies Edge A’s to Move Within One Win of Upset in the Series

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Philly Dream Series Game 5 Preview

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, November 01, 2013 10:00 AM Comments: 0

Momentum is clearly on the A’s side as the Philly Dream Series heads back to 21st and Lehigh for Game 5. The aces return to the hill with Lefty Grove and Cole Hamels set to square off this afternoon. Johnny, Bruce and Corey are back to discuss the matchup, particularly how poorly Hamels fares in day games compared to those played under the lights of modern times.

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A’s Blast Blanton, Even Series, Snatch Momentum

Posted by Johnny Goodtimes, Wed, October 30, 2013 10:10 PM Comments: 15

Rube Walberg pitched a complete game 3-hitter

Rube Walberg pitched a complete game 3-hitter.

Kentucky Joe Blanton‘s last appearance in a game of this magnitude was a magical one. Not only did he pitch 6 solid innings in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, giving up only 4 hits and 2 runs, but he also blasted a memorable home run that convinced many Phillies fans in attendance (myself included) that THIS was our year.

Game 4 of the Philly Dream Series did not turn out nearly as well. The Phillies got rocked, 10-1, as Big Joe was blasted for three runs in the first. Not long after a Mule Haas double in the 3rd, he was pulled from the mound to a chorus of boos and with the Phillies in a 3-0 hole.

That hole would get a lot bigger in the 5th when Chad Durbin got shelled for the 2nd time in two games. The heart of the A’s offense ripped the heart out of Durbin’s chest, as a leadoff walk to Mule Haas and consecutive hits by Cochrane, Simmons, and Foxx gave the A’s a touchdown lead. A single by Bing Miller brought home Foxx to add the extra point, and it was 7-0 by the time Durbin’s cold, lifeless corpse was dragged off the field. (The coroner’s report read “Death by Annihiliation”). Continue reading A’s Blast Blanton, Even Series, Snatch Momentum

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Philly Dream Series – Game 4 Preview

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, October 30, 2013 04:00 PM Comments: 0

After an offensive explosion in Game 3 led by Mickey Cochrane’s cycle, the boys from North Philly are thirsty for more. Johnny Goodtimes and the guys break down where we stand in the Philly Dream Series with the Phillies up two games to one. Watch as Dr. Bruce Kuklick ranks Mickey Cochrane among baseball’s best all-time catchers and Corey Seidman discuss how Joe Blanton would fare against the A’s lineup.

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1929 A’s Fan Talks About Growing Up Next Door to Shibe

Posted by Johnny Goodtimes, Tue, October 29, 2013 06:02 PM Comments: 10

rooney-400x392With us in the midst of our Philly Dream Series, I thought it’d be a great time to share an interview I did recently with Philadelphia A’s fan Jack Rooney, part of which originally appeared on Philly Mag‘s blog. Jack was 6 when the A’s won the 1929 World Series, and lived directly behind the right field fence. Those great old photos of fans sitting on the rooftops watching World Series games? One of those rooftops was Jack’s! Last year he wrote a book about the experience called Bleachers in the Bedroom. Here he talks to me about that 1929 team, what it was like having bleachers on his roof, and about his brother’s friendship with Al Simmons. 

Where exactly did you live?
I lived on 2739 20th street. Behind the right field fence. And they had a low right field fence, about 12 feet high, so you had a great view from there. I was interviewed at Citizens Bank Park a few years ago, and I sat in a section there they called rooftop bleachers, and it’s supposed to duplicate the view we had from our rooftop bleachers on 20th Street. So the reporter asked me, “Is it the same?” And of course I could look out and sort of visualize what it was like back then, and I said, “We were a lot closer.”

Some of the A’s players lived right in your neighborhood, right?
The one we really had a relationship with was Al Simmons. He was probably the biggest star on the team. He rented a room from a family that was three doors away from us on 20th Street. We saw him often. My kid brother had the job of waking him up sometimes, because Mrs. Conwell didn’t want to go into his bedroom, so she’d say, “Hey Jerry, would you go in and wake up Al?” And he’d go in, wake him and talk to him. My brother would say, “Come on Al, you’ve got to get up. You’ve got to get your batting practice.”

Continue reading 1929 A’s Fan Talks About Growing Up Next Door to Shibe

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