07/25/2004 8:31 PM ET
Simmons honored with Frick Award
Voice of Bay Area baseball gracious, modest
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Lon Simmons was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence Sunday at the Hall of Fame ceremonies. But you found out about his real importance from someone else.
|Lon Simmons, the voice of Bay Area baseball for more than four decades, was honored Sunday with the Ford C. Frick Award. (John Dunn/AP)
Simmons broadcast Bay Area baseball for more than four decades for the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. He was an original voice of the Giants when they moved to the West Coast.
Simmons' speech was graciously modest and dealt primarily not with his own career, but the players and colleagues whose work touched his life. But Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Eckersley captured Simmons' importance to Bay Area baseball fans.
"When I found out that Lon was going in, I was thrilled, because Lon is a wonderful man, an incredible guy," Eckersley said. "If you know him, I wouldn't have to say anything because he's just a gentleman.
"To be a little kid growing up in the Bay Area, it was right out of a book, you know, with the transistor radio in my ear, late at night, I'm telling you, listening to Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges. You know, Lon calling a home run ball: 'You can tell it goodbye!' It will always be with me."
Joe Morgan, another Hall of Famer, and another person who had grown up listening to Lon Simmons, introduced the broadcaster Sunday:
"I listened to Lon Simmons every night, and I mean every single night," Morgan said. "My heroes were Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Marichal and Perry. And through Lon Simmons' broadcasts, they all magically came alive for me, each and every day. In fact, he did such a great job that when I went to the Major Leagues and started playing against these great players, I felt that I knew them all individually. That's what Lon Simmons brought to all of us who listened to him. ... My broadcasting career will not complete until I get to broadcast a game with Lon Simmons."
Simmons' own comments about his career were self-effacing. But also in tracing the connection between baseball broadcaster and baseball fan, they were profound.
"I did not before, and I do not now, consider myself to be the quality of a Hall of Fame announcer," he said. "I do say that this, that the vote that they had, the people in San Francisco, convinced me that maybe you don't have to be a national announcer in baseball. You can make a difference if you're local. They voted for me and that helped me get where I am today.
"The thing about baseball is, it's a national game that's played locally. People get ties to that. Baseball is a game where the threads of our memory make the game. It's woven through. And what happens is that one day you go to the ballpark, you walk through that looking glass, you walk into a wonderland. The colors, the grass, the teams, the crowd, the murmur of the crowd, and then the roar of the crowd when the winning home run is hit. The great thing about this is you're hooked then.
"And then Vin (Scully) and Russ (Hodges) come into your living room and they're your friends. And that's how you grow up. And that's who you remember as your first eyes and words from the ball club."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.