Long before he was immortalized in Cooperstown and scored a bronze in front of Busch Stadium, Ted Simmons was just a boy who wanted to be a hunter. Well, a mask, sure, but specifically one mask.
“In Detroit, Bill Freehan was the guy, the way Molina is, today, the guy,” said the legendary Simmons Cardinals, 73, who still resides in St. Louis.
On a Tuesday in May of 1963, novice Frihan grabbed a child as he took his first steps. Left-handed named Mickey Lulich. The game was the first of 324 that Lelitch and Freehan would start for the Tigers. Battery buddies have become icons in Detroit. Lolich, who grew up reluctantly in the St. Louis newspaper, won the 1968 World Series MVP award. Freehan won seven Gold Gloves while making 11 All-Star games.
Simmons, who turned 14 in the summer of 1963, said, “I’d listen to the Tigers on the radio every night. It was radio music, boxes, and recorders for collecting cards. Hopefully you’ve got a Detroit Tiger in one of the packs you bought. … Every kid in the neighborhood aspired to be a major player in the league.I ended up being the lucky one.
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“When I was 14, I was well known as an athlete throughout the Metropolitan Detroit area. The scouts at the time could grab you, take you to a ball game, sit you down, and impress you in the best possible way.
“I went down to Tiger Stadium once with a scout, Lou D’Annunzio—and he introduced me to Frihan in the tiger’s lair. And he gave me one of his old gloves! I definitely remember that and I was absolutely crazy with exhilaration when it happened.”
By 1968, Simmons was fast-tracking himself out of the league aficionado. The 19-year-old, a rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals, was sitting in the dugout during the World Championships against his childhood champions.
In 1972 and 1973, Freehan and Simmons were all-star catchers.
And in September 1975, Lulich and Freehan were friends with Battery for the last time. Three hundred and twenty four begins. More than ever by a pitcher and catcher.
It was one of those records, especially with the dawn of free agency, that seemed to never be matched.
And now, after September 47, Adam Wainwright and Yadir Molina are set to set the record on Thursday. Cardinals-Nationals, 12:15 p.m. at Busch Stadium.
It’s an amazing feat, embodying what makes every Cardinal great – talent and dedication to St. Louis, as well as longevity and a bit of luck.
And after the summers he watched as teenage Lulich and his hero Frihan, Simmons spent dozens of summer nights watching Yadi and Wino – experiencing Yadi and Wino.
They first started together on April 6, 2007, a season after they made post-season history – defeating Detroit for the world title.
“Like Lolich and Freehan, these guys are posting,” Simmons said. “You know what I mean by that—they’re there every fifth day, and they’re there every night.
“For the record, you can say, ‘Well, someone (on another team) was unlucky. He was injured. And he wasn’t lucky enough – otherwise he would have broken that record. But you can’t look at it that way. Either You post or you don’t.If you post the way Yadi did, the way Wainwright did, these things happen to you.
“Often, believe me, Freehan and Lulich, along with Molina and Wainwright, went into that position when they might not have had to, because the injuries were such that their skills that night might have seriously impaired their physical body. But After that he went anyway. Not because they were looking for some kind of record, but because their integrity with their team and toward their teammates and their city was such that they felt: I’d better go there for our team and everyone, than sit down.”
Wainwright and Molina are forever linked in St. Louis. They are in the spotlight from Shea Stadium. They walk together a step from the bull’s yard. It’s the names on the shirts of a lot of fans. It is in your fondest memories. And this year, Molina’s last year, they were wearing socks, hats, and cans of beer.
And one day, they will be Cardinals Hall of Famers.
And they are heroes for boys and girls who want to play ball, and who want to be who they are. They are related to this generation of St. Louis children the way Leulich and Freehan were related to Jill Simmons of the Detroit children. This is something special. Honor time.
“So in every one of these four guys, they went in there, they mailed whatever happened,” Simmons said of the two batteries. “That’s why this quartet ends up meeting at a crossroads here.”