23. Al Simmons

Called Bucketfoot Al, because of an unusual batting style in which he stepped toward the dugout this Hall of Fame player won batting titles in 1930 and 1931 to help the Philadelphia Athletics to consecutive pennants. He recorded 11 consecutive seasons as a .300 hitter and 100-RBI man. But did you know that Al Simmons might not have made the Baseball Hall of Fame without Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas? During the 1928 season he missed the first twenty-seven games of the season due to rheumatoid arthritis in both of his ankles. It was a condition which threatened to prematurely end his career at the age of twenty-six. Then he discovered Hot Springs. Simmons took the thermal baths and hiked the mountain trails by himself and later with his teammates while training for the 1929 season. What were the results? Al Simmons played in 143 games in 1929, batted .365, slugged 34 home runs, drove in 157 runs, and lead the Philadelphia A’s to a victory in the World Series…all by a guy who they thought was “washed up” the year before. When young Stan Musial joined the St. Louis Cardinals late in the 1941 season Al Simmons was still hanging around the league as a part-time player. In 1945 when “Stan the Man’s” fortunes skyrocketed Simmons was the third base coach for the Phillies. During that time the veteran Al Simmons bonded with the young superstar. Both men were Polish- American Catholics that had a lot in common. Simmons encouraged the younger Musial to stay in the line-up every day and to play every game to the hilt. One of Al Simmons greatest regrets was that he ended his Hall of Fame career seventy-three hits short of the 3,000 hit club. After retiring he often berated himself for missing so many games due to injury and that he stayed out of the action too long as he recovered. This was a mistake that he did not want the young Stan Musial to repeat. Obviously Stan Musial listened to Al Simmons.