Simmons, Porter star in St. Louis tale of two World Series catchers
There's been plenty of human drama on both sides in the 1982 World Series, but nowhere more so than in the travels and travails of the two catchers.Skip to next paragraph
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Milwaukee's Ted Simmons, of course, has the mixed emotions of a man who spent more than a decade as a big star and fan favorite in St. Louis, then got traded away only to come back in an enemy uniform for the biggest games of his career.
Cardinal receiver Darrell Porter, meanwhile, traveled in the opposite direction. He launched his big league career in Milwaukee and eventually wound up in St. Louis - only to struggle through two sub-par seasons and become the favorite booing target of fans still angry about the loss of Simmons.
With all these tangential concerns swirling through both players' heads, it wouldn't have been surprising if their performances had suffered. Instead, each has been a key man for his team throughout post-season action.
To begin with, they've done the job on defense, which is really the most important function of any catcher. Each knows the other team's hitters, of course, to a far greater extent than is usually the case in a World Series. And both have done everything from blocking potential wild pitches to providing the last line of defense against enemy base runners. In this case both men have provided sizable bonuses with their bats as well.
Simmons did so with a flourish, smashing dramatic home runs in each of the first two games in Busch Stadium, where the fans gave him an emotional welcome. But Porter actually has been the steadier contributor on offense throughout post-season play, batting .556 to win MVP honors in the playoffs, and coming through again as one of the Redbirds' most consistent hitters in the fall classic.
With the Series opening in St. Louis last week, Simmons was thrust on stage first - and he made the most of his moment. Ted went out twice, but then he smashed a tremendous solo home run and was treated to a prolonged ovation.
''That meant a lot to me,'' he said afterward. ''I spent 11 wonderful years here and made a lot of friends. I didn't feel like an intruder; I felt like a friend coming back to visit. It was a very special moment.''
Simmons singled later in that contest, then hit another homer in Game 2. His offensive production tailed off in the games at Milwaukee - partly, no doubt, because the St. Louis pitchers started giving him extra attention (he led all players on both teams in walks through the first five games).
Behind the plate, of course, Simmons has been faced with the task of keeping the Cardinals' best-in-the-majors running game within limits. No catcher is going to stop Lonnie Smith, Willie McGee & Co. completely, and the Redbirds did steal six bases in the first five games. But that's just about par for them, and meanwhile Ted gunned down two other would-be base thieves, including Smith in a key attempted steal of third in Game 5.
Simmons was one of the key men in the big trade between Milwaukee and St. Louis two years ago, and it took him awhile to adjust to American League pitching. A career .298 hitter who had batted over .300 six times in the National League, he hit only .216 in his first A. L. season. He raised that to . 269 this year, and although that still isn't up to his old standards, he and the club were more than satisfied with his overall production, which included 23 home runs and 98 RBIs.
''There are many reasons I haven't hit for as high an average,'' he says. ''There are a lot of adjustments to make when you're facing a new set of pitchers. And there were adjustments off the field too. I'd been in St. Louis 11 years. I was away from my family. There was a lot of physical and emotional strain.