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Curt Simmons, Last of the Phillies’ Whiz Kids, Dies at 93


Curt Simmons, a pitcher who helped propel the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies to the franchise’s first pennant in 35 years and went on to grow to be considered one of baseball’s leading left-handers in his 20 major league seasons, died on Tuesday at his home in Ambler, Pa. He was 93.

His daughter, Susan D’Acquisto, confirmed that death. She said Simmons had a hip alternative years ago that had been compromised and caused him to grow to be bedridden and ultimately debilitated.

Simmons was the last survivor of the mostly young 1950 Phillies team often known as the Whiz Kids, who captured the National League pennant on the ultimate day of the season, only to be swept by the Yankees within the World Series.

While pitching for the Phillies, Simmons was a three-time All-Star. In his mid-30s, after getting back from elbow surgery, he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals’ 1964 N.L. pennant winners and commenced twice of their seven-game World Series victory over the Yankees.

Counting on his fastball early on and later reinventing himself with quite a lot of pitches that kept batters off stride, Simmons had a profession record of 193 victories and 183 losses.

In the summertime of 1950, when he was 21, he teamed with the long run Hall of Fame right-hander Robin Roberts, who was 23, and a lineup that included one other future Hall of Famer, Richie Ashburn, 23, in center field and the hard-hitting Del Ennis, 25, in left field. That Whiz Kids team won a long-sought pennant after ending 16 games behind the league champion Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.

Simmons had a 17-8 record for the 1950 Phillies in early September, when the Army National Guard unit he had joined after the outbreak of the Korean War in late June was called up for energetic duty.

The Phillies, managed by Eddie Sawyer, were one game ahead of the Dodgers going into the season’s final Sunday once they captured the N.L. pennant with a 4-1 victory at Ebbets Field on Dick Sisler’s Tenth-inning three-run home run.

While the players were celebrating their stunning pennant victory, they phoned Simmons at his Army base in Pennsylvania.

“The boys from the party called me from the Warwick Hotel in Philly,” Simmons told The Palm Beach Post in 2009. “A few of them were coherent, some weren’t.”

Simmons and Roberts, a 20-game winner in 1950, were the anchors of the Phillies’ starting rotation. The pitching staff also included Jim Konstanty, a rare “old-timer” on the ball club at 33, who won 16 games, all in relief, and was named the N.L.’s Most worthy player; and Bob Miller, who won 11 games and was runner-up for rookie of the 12 months.

However the Phillies did little on the plate within the World Series, scoring only five runs in losing 4 straight to the Yankees.

“Roberts and Simmons at all times rose to the occasion,” the catcher Andy Seminick told Danny Peary for the oral history “We Played the Game” (2004). “We’d go into town for a three-game series, we were confident we’d win at the very least two games.”

Hank Aaron regarded Simmons as probably the greatest fastball pitchers he faced. He also remembered how deceptive he could possibly be.

“I wasn’t fooled fairly often,” Aaron told The Recent York Times in 1976, but “Curt Simmons was the hardest to read because he hid the ball so long behind his hips.”

The Phillies released Simmons in May 1960. The Cardinals signed him a number of days later. He posted an 18-9 record in 1964.

“Curt knows the hitters higher than anyone within the league,” Johnny Keane, the Cardinals’ manager, told Sports Illustrated that June. “He has the curve, the slider and the change, and he can reach back and get the fastball.”

Simmons joined with Bob Gibson and Ray Sadecki on the pitching staff that helped take the 1964 Cardinals to a World Series title. He began Games 3 and 6 and pitched well, however the Cardinals lost each games before beating the Yankees in Game 7.

He later pitched for the Chicago Cubs and the California Angels. He retired in 1967.

Curtis Thomas Simmons was born on May 19, 1929, in Egypt, Pa., northwest of Allentown. His father, Lawrence, worked in a cement mill, and his mother, Hattie (Peifly) Simmons, was a homemaker.

A star pitcher at Whitehall High School in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, he was signed by the Phillies to a $65,000 bonus, an enormous figure for the time, when he graduated in 1947. He pitched in a single game for the Phillies that 12 months, then had losing records in the following two years before flourishing in 1950.

Simmons pitched for an Army baseball team until his discharge before the 1952 baseball season. He won 14 games that 12 months and led the N.L. in shutouts, with six. He won 16 games in 1953, though he missed a month after losing a part of a toe in a lawn mower accident.

After leaving baseball, Simmons was a partner with Roberts and others in a golf course in Ambler, Pa. He became the last living Whiz Kid when Miller, his pitching corps teammate, died in November 2020 at 94. During their last years, Simmons and Miller, who was living in Michigan, kept in contact by phone, reliving their glorious summer of 1950.

Along with his daughter, Simmons is survived by his sons, Timothy and Thomas, and 7 grandchildren. His wife, Dorothy (Ludwig) Simmons, died in 2012.

Simmons long remembered his disappointment over missing the 1950 World Series.

“Two days before the Series began, they called me into the Army office and said they’d give me a 10-day leave without pay,” he told The Allentown Morning Call in 2014. “I wasn’t eligible to pitch since the rosters needed to be arrange three days before the Series, so I pitched batting practice.

“I feel I put the fellows in a slump because I used to be pitching pretty good.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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