On the last game of the 1947 season, in the second game of a double header against the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Phillies gave the ball to a young left hander who would go on to be one of its best pitchers.
Curt Simmons, then barely 18, went all the way, striking out 9 and giving up only 5 hits in the Phillies 3-1 win. The Giants took the opener, 4-1.
Simmons had been a highly recruited high school prospect since he was 16. In the summer of 1945 Simmons pitched the Coplay American Legion team to the first of two consecutive Pennsylvania state junior crowns.
His mound mastery landed Simmons in an American Legion all-star game in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park where he struck out seven of the nine hitters he faced. Two years later, in Simmons’ senior year, he struck out 102 batters and gave up only 12 hits in 43-1⁄3 innings. Simmons threw two no-hitters, three one-hitters, and two four-hitters and led his Whitehall High School nine to a third straight Lehigh Valley title.
Scouts flocked to Simmons’ Egypt, PA. home with the hope of signing him the instant he graduated. Among them were the Phillies who sent their major league squad to Egypt to field a team against Simmons—the ultimate try out. In the Phillies’ line up were Del Ennis and Johnny Wyrostek—not superstars but big league regulars.
Simmons scattered five hits through seven innings. More impressive were his nine strikeouts, better than one an inning. On the strength of Simmons’ performance and with an infusion of DuPont money from the new Philadelphia owners, the Phillies outbid all competitors for the lefty’s services. Simmons received an unheard of $65,000.
Simmons, along with Robin Roberts, helped lead the 1950 Whiz Kids Phillies to the pennant with his 17-8 record. But Simmons missed the World Series when his National Guard unit was activated. The Yankees’ sweep in four tightly pitched, low scoring duels was attributable in part to Simmon’s absence.
With the Cardinals in 1964, age 35, Simmons finally saw his first World Series action. In two fine starts against the Yankees, he was 0-1 with a 2.51 ERA.
During his 20-year career, Simmons never quite lived up to his teen phenom status. But he was an above average lefty who finished up 193-183 with a 3.54 ERA and 1,697 strike outs. Simmons started more than 25 games eleven times.
Now 81 Simmons, along with Smokey Burgess, was the last player to retire who was active in the 1940s. Named number 27 on the All Time Phillies list, Simmons lives in Montgomery County, PA.