Al Hrabosky pitched on the same St. Louis Cardinals staff with Bob Forsch, with both of them throwing to Ted Simmons–with George Kissell instructing and serving various roles in the organization. And though they were never teammates, he got to know Curt Flood after his playing days were done. So to see his four friends honored as the newest members of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame was particularly special for Hrabosky.
“Unfortunately, three of them have passed away–good people, good friends, and a great, great Hall of Fame class,” said Hrabosky recently. ”
Bob Forsch was a relatively young pitcher when he and Hungo were teammates. “My final year was ’77 and that’s the year he won 20 games,” said Hrabosky. “It really kind of catapulted him into that position where he could be a team leader.”
“Because he did every aspect–he was a starting pitcher who won 20 games, he was a swing guy in the bullpen, he kind of had different hats so there was no area where a young pitcher couldn’t come to him and talk to him and he could talk from expertise.”
“Some people criticized his defensive ability but if I was pitching–particularly if the game was on the line, there’s nobody I wanted back behind the plate other than Ted Simmons,” stated Hrabosky.
“Part of that was selfish because he could motivate me–he knew what to do, where to kick me in the rear end, or kind of just put down the number one. But also, he was going to win the game for me with his bat.”
Disappointed that his former teammate is not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Hrabosky argues that Simmons does not get enough credit for what he did at the plate.
“Ted to me was as pure a hitter as there was in the ’70s,” continued Al. “I’ve said this many times, Johnny Bench is a Hall of Famer. Johnny Bench is a better catcher. He was a better defensive catcher by far and his ability to throw was exceptional. Johnny hit a lot of home runs, but Ted Simmons was a better hitter. Ted Simmons was a much better hitter and I think most pitchers–I mean, you respected Bench immensely and you respected that he could put a crooked number up there with the home run but I don’t think there’s anybody that, if you gave them the chance with the game on the line, you’d rather face Johnny Bench than Ted Simmons.”
The statement has more merit than one might realize. The power numbers favor Bench (389 HR/1376 RBI vs. 248 HR/1389 RBI), but of his 17 seasons, he only hit .300 once–during the 52 games of the strike-shortened 1981 season. Simmons hit .300 seven different seasons and finished his 21-year career with a .298 average.
photo credit: St. Louis Cardinals