Wednesday, November 01, 2006
The Passing of Legends
When Buck O'neil, the baseball ambassador who helped uncover the glory of Negro League Baseball, passed away in early October at the age of 86, I was saddened. I felt that baseball had lost a part of its history they'd only recently rediscovered.
Then I was saddened this week when Red Auerbach, coach of eight consecutive Boston Celtic NBA Championship teams, passed away at 89. The game of Basketball had lost a man considered the Greatest Coach in the History of the game.
Today I'm saddened yet again by the loss of a sports figure. I'm saddened because I and the rest of the sporting world only recently discovered the man considered the oldest living professional baseball player of today. His name was Silas Simmons and he died yesterday at the ripe old age of 111.
The St. Petersberg Times discovered Silas "Si" Simmons off a tip from Genealogist David Lambert the other year and have written him up a few times in their daily paper. Here's a link to one of the recent write-ups by staff writer Dave Scheiber: Baseball Legend Turns 111
I think of the history this man has lived through and the stories he could tell if only we'd known. Imagine watching a baseball game with someone who saw Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and many great baseball players both black and white play. Imagine, if you're as much a history buff as I am, asking someone to compare Barry Bonds to other great sluggers of the post WWII era. Heck, "Si" was alive when the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series back in 1910. He was around when the 1917 Boston Red Sox won it and I'm sure he remembered the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal and Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Though "Si" was not allowed to play against the white professional teams of his day due to the MLB segregation rules, it didn't stop him from going to the games and seeing the white players play baseball. His memories of the great black professional baseball players actually predates the negro leagues of Buck Oneil's time.
One article stated that he was born just 30 years after the assination of Abraham Lincoln. That alone makes the historian in me curious about this man. You figure he grew up around folks talking about the "War between the States." He was a young boy growing up in Philadelphia when the Philadelphia A's (now Oakland A's) team was first organized in 1900. And again, he probably remembers the days when the Chicago Cubs were a MLB powerhouse with the infamous infield of Tinker, Evers and Chance.
Silas "Si" Simmons may not have been one of the greats who played the game of baseball, but he's been a great fan of the game longer than anyone I've ever known. And that is something I'll miss having the chance to hear about; the fans view of games and players past.
Silas "Si" Simmons, a lover of baseball and life.
Early Picture of Homestead Grays (Silas was a pitcher and outfielder)