The Phillies Nation Top 100: #17 Curt Simmons – Phillies Nation

The Phillies Nation Top 100: #17 Curt Simmons

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #17. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back Monday morning for #16. – Curt Simmons

Years: 1947-1960

115-110, 3.66 ERA, 1.332 WHIP in 1936.2 IP

Previous Rank: 27 (+10)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 6th among pitchers, 16th among Phillies

Signature Season: Returned to the Major Leagues for 1952 season after being called to active military service in September 1950 and had best statistical year of career (2.82 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, named an All-Star)

Three-time All-Star (1952-1953, 1957)

Oh, what might have been in 1950.

The pride of Egypt, PA, Curt Simmons, pitching for Whitehall High School at the time, struck out eleven Phillies in a 1947 exhibition game. Simmons had been on the Phillies radar after leading the Whitehall Zephyrs to three-straight league titles and the Coplay American Legion team to two state titles and was signed shortly after the game to a $65,000 signing bonus. By the end of 1947, the 18-year old Simmons was in a Phillies uniform, pitching the Phillies to a 3-1, complete game victory in his only start of the season.

Simmons was used as a swingman in 1948 and 1949 before finding his groove as a top-flight pitcher in 1950. Simmons went 17-8 with a 3.40 ERA, finishing 16th in the 1950 NL MVP voting, despite missing most of September after being called into active duty for the Korean War. The Whiz Kids would hang on and win the NL Pennant and Simmons would be granted a 10-day leave to join his teammates for the World Series. But rosters were finalized, Simmons had to watch from the stands, and one only wonders what may have been had the Fightins had Simmons in their rotation during a Fall Classic that featured three one-run games and, despite being a sweep, was decided by six total runs.

Simmons’ most memorable season, however, may have been 1952. Having missed the entirety of the 1951 season, Simmons posted career-lows in ERA and WHIP, going 14-8 in over 200 IP. Simmons ranks fifth all-time in Phillies history in victories and innings pitched, 16th in complete games, and seventh in shutouts. During his time with the Phillies, Simmons ranked ninth in the NL in wins, 30th in ERA, seventh in complete games, and tenth in shutouts.

Like all good stories, Simmons’ has a happy ending. Simmons would be released midseason by the Phillies in 1960 and would sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1964 with the Cardinals, Simmons would get his shot at the World Series. Starting Games 2 and 6, Simmons would leave Game 2 with a 1-1 tie in the ninth and would be on the losing end of Game 6. Ultimately, the Cardinals would win the 1964 World Series and Simmons would be rewarded with a World Series ring.

Somewhat surprisingly, there are few people who say Simmons release in 1960 contributed anything to the Phillies falling apart down the stretch in 1964 to the Cardinals. Hindsight being 20/20, it probably would have helped the 1964 Phillies if they had a pitcher that went 18-9 with a 3.43 ERA, including four wins in September, down the stretch. Simmons would finish his career in 1967 after spending time with the Cubs and Angels. Simmons was inducted on to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1993.



  1. Vinnie

    February 14, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Last player to formerly retire (whatever that means).. that played in the 1940’s.

  2. photoFred

    February 14, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    I did not know about the 10 day pass. How did that not get coordinated so he could pitch?

    This from Wikipedia:
    “Simmons was stationed at Camp Atterbury and requested and was granted a leave on October 4 to attend the Series. The Phillies chose not to request that Commissioner Chandler rule Simmons eligible for the Series but Simmons chose to attend to support the team.”

    Chose not? Must be more to this story.

  3. whizkidfanatic

    February 14, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Curt Simmons is one of the nicest guys to ever play big league ball. Like most pitchers who last twenty years he was in essence two pitchers; the first half a power pitcher with genuinely HOF stuff. He was scary good in this phase. Nasty 90 plus fastball, two different curve balls and just wild enough to keep hitters loose at the plate. In the second phase after surviving arm troubles and surgery, he became a master breaking ball control artist.
    In the first half of his career injuries caused him more problems than hitters. At times he was simply to good for the league. In 1953 he gave up a single to lead off hitter Bill Bruton the proceeded to retire 27 Braves in a row, striking out Bruton three times. A few days later he had the famous lawnmower accident which put him on the DL for a month.

    He didn’t pitch in the 1950 WS because the Phillies management felt that he was rusty from not pitching for three weeks and they were more concerned with protecting his arm. At that time the mistaken belief was that the youth and talent on the whiz kids would result in several more pennants. Incidentally, John Quinn got lots of grief after the 64 collapse for getting rid of Curt Simmons and Robin Roberts for nothing.

    • Lefty

      February 15, 2014 at 7:42 am

      great comment whizkidfanatic! I was not born until the early 50’s, and love reading stories about the whiz kids. Was that really the reason he didn’t pitch the 50 series? Ian’s piece makes it sound like it was because the rosters were finalized before he was granted the ten day leave.

    • photoFred

      February 15, 2014 at 9:01 am

      Of course we all know better looking back, but given a shot at the WS why not go all in. How rusty could he have been? And then Konstanty is available in relief in game 2. And then…and then… Oh well. Never mind.

      • wbramh

        February 16, 2014 at 4:03 am

        But really that short series stood out for good pitching on both sides. The Phillies could only muster 5 runs in 4 games while the yankees only scored 6 runs in the first 3 games (11 in total). Only 1 run was scored on Konstanty in game #1. I assume that was the game Simmons would have pitched had he been available since Roberts pitched game #2 (and lost 2-1). Had the series gone past 4 games the loss of Simmons might have been a deciding factor in in the series. Simmons would have needed to match Raschi’s shutout through 9 and then hoped his teammates bats opened up in extra innings. As it turned out, the Whiz Kids didn’t score their first run of the series until the 5th inning of game #2.

      • whizkidfanatic

        February 16, 2014 at 8:56 pm

        A good point made by wbramh. Phillie pitching held up quite well in the 1950 series. Of course that doesn’t negate the loss of Simmons as a major factor. It does point out however that the Phillies were a tired, worn down team. The intensity of the final two weeks and the long season had taken it’s toll.

        Frankly, the Phillies played bad baseball in the series, running themselves out of several scoring opportunities and making atypical mental mistakes.

        Game three was a microcosm. Hamner flubbed a ground ball that would have ended the 8th and Ashburn failed to call off Jackie Mayo on an easy fly ball that fell between them to score
        the Yankees winning run in the 9th.

      • wbramh

        February 16, 2014 at 10:19 pm

        Yep. Some ill-timed flubs in the field didn’t help.
        And Robbie (who pitched 3 times in the last week of the season) pitched a great game through 9 only to lose it on DiMaggio’s HR to lead off the 10th.
        On an already exhausted Phillies team, you have to wonder who would have been rested enough to pitch a game #5. They played the first 4 games on consecutive days . There was no off day when the series moved from Shibe to Yankee Stadium and to my knowledge, game #5 was scheduled for the following day (a Sunday). After pitching 8 great innings as game #1’s surprise starter, Konstanty was back in relief in games 3 & 4 and Robbie would have had just two full day’s of rest after a workhorse couple of weeks.

        As you suggested, better fielding and hitting likely would have given the Phils a chance to lose the series in 5 games since the Whiz Kids’ near miraculous pitching would have been totally spent after 4.

        Now if Hamner doesn’t make his error and Whitely doesn’t let the ball drop and Robbie doesn’t toss a souvenir and the machine-like Simmons had been available for that mythical game #5… who knows? A Simmons victory would have allowed Robbie to face Reynolds again in game #6 on Lehigh Avenue setting up round #2 of Heintzelman vs. Lopat. Of course, then it would have been a 1-game shoot-out and anybody’s series.

        I guess what I’m really saying is, the Whiz Kids might have knocked off the Bombers had they avoided playing the first 4 games.

      • wbramh

        February 16, 2014 at 10:34 pm

        I should add that a lot of writers picked the Yankees in 5 yet the ‘Kids played far better than anyone predicted even though they were swept. I don’t believe the Bombers have ever been involved in another series consisting of three 1-run nail-biters in a row. Not sure of that but maybe somebody has those figures at hand.

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