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- FISHERMAN'S CALENDARMay 05, 1958
For A left-hander, Curt Simmons is a nice enough young man. He treats his family with deep affection, has practically never been known to kick a hole in his locker even after losing a close game and is spoken of by his teammates on the Philadelphia Phillies only in terms of admiration and respect. Of course there are days when other teams in the National League somehow manage to restrain themselves from going into ecstasy over the character of Curt Simmons, but this is in the nature of things. Generally, they like him too.
Yet in his relations with the press, Curt Simmons has been downright inconsiderate. With every opportunity in the world to make one of the most dramatic comebacks in baseball history, he has flubbed his lines.
He hasn't dramatized his exits. There was his induction into the U.S. Army in 1950 as the first major leaguer to be called up for the Korean war. If his baseball career was to be washed up at an early age, what an opportunity there! But since Curt ended up in Germany instead of in Korea, he couldn't very well get himself shot. So he came on back home to pitch just as well as ever, and then stuck his foot in a power mower. That would have been a highly dramatic ending, too, except that a month later he was winning ball games again and laughing at the idea that a Pennsylvania Dutchman couldn't pitch just as well with nine whole toes as with 10. Only then, after escaping such bizarre fates, did Curt Simmons come to the end of the road in the most prosaic way possible: he went out one day to pitch and couldn't pitch at all. His arm was sore.
So two years went by and few people thought much about Curt Simmons any more except possibly to shake their heads sadly when they were reminded of what might have been. Then, one day, Curt Simmons was back. Just like that. Here, right in the middle of the 1956 season, he has won seven games in a row, each one of them complete. Almost overnight his earned run average has dropped until he is among the lowest in the league and once again he looks like one of the finest pitchers in all baseball.
"I don't care," he says now, "if I never make the headlines again. All I want to do is pitch and win games."
And who can blame him? His first 10 years in baseball were eventful enough to last anyone for a lifetime.
Back in 1947 he began to receive his first national publicity when it was noted that major league scouts were standing on each other's shoulders to get a peek at this husky pitcher with the blazing fast ball who had pitched a string of no-hitters for Egypt High School. And of course he had that going for him, too; to a baseball writer, Egypt, Pennsylvania may not have all the endearing qualities of Vinegar Bend, Alabama, perhaps, but it is certainly good enough.
On September 28, 1947, pitching in his first major league game, this 18-year-old fresh out of the Pennsylvania hills beat the New York Giants 3-1 on five hits and struck out nine. At this point, the only thing standing between young Curtis Thomas Simmons and the ceremony which would install his plaque in the Hall of Fame was a simple matter of hurrying through the next 15 or so seasons in order to retire and become eligible for selection.
Of course it didn't work out quite that way; Curt was a very young man and he had troubles just as Bob Feller and Robin Roberts, who was to come along a year later, had theirs; a 20-game winner does not spring full-blown even from the hardy stock of Egypt, Pa. He had some trouble with his control and the Phillies manager and coaches were frankly a little worried about Curt's jerky, twisty pitching motion, which they felt needed to be smoothed out at least a little in deference to his arm if nothing else. But National League batters were agreed that when the young man was right, he was just about the toughest thing to hit they had seen in a mighty long time. And when the 1950 season rolled around, he was ready to go.
That year, as the Phils won their first pennant since 1915, Simmons and Roberts were clearly the difference. Yet for Curt it wasn't an entirely acceptable season—on September 4, after he had won 17 games and appeared a cinch for at least 20, he was called up for active duty as a member of the 28th Infantry Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard.