When Lon Simmons passed away last month, this site kind of biffed it. I wanted to pour my heart out, to write a fitting tribute to someone who clearly meant so much to the Giants' organization. It wouldn't have been honest, though. I didn't grow up listening to Simmons. I came of age in the era when almost every game was on TV, so my interactions were limited. Writing about what Simmons meant to me as a young fan would have been a lie.
I'm still bummed about the lack of coverage here, though. Should have done more.
Up there is an audio recording of the Giants facing the Padres in 1971. If they won, they went to the postseason, straight to the NLCS. If they lost, they had to face the Dodgers in a one-game playoff. It was at San Diego Stadium, so you don't get the full force of a frenetic crowd, but you can get the urgency from Simmons's voice. I'm so happy this isn't the TV broadcast. This is one of the best examples of a Simmons call on the Internet, as far as I can tell.
I'm not qualified to tell you if this is Simmons's prime, but it's hard to see how it wouldn't be. In a long career, this is one of the more important regular-season games he ever called, and he sounded great. The Dodgers game started just after the Padres game, so he made sure to give in-game updates that were absolutely crucial in a pre-cable world.
Note: The Padres had a player named Johnny Jeter, and it's completely disorienting to hear him say things like "Jeter dives back in." If you're looking for highlights, this will help:
56:59: Simmons calls the first run of the game, an RBI double from Willie Mays
1:00:30: Dave Kingman hits a two-run dinger, and Simmons gets to tell it goodbye. Sounds like a ton of Giants fans in San Diego, probably the last time that would ever happen.
2:17:30: Simmons's partner, Bill Thompson, calls a run-scoring balk. I don't know. It's interesting to me.
2:24:51: Thompson calls the final out, and the Giants are going to the NLCS.
If it seems bittersweet because the Giants didn't beat the Pirates, meaning that Mays, McCovey, and Marichal never got their championship in San Francisco, don't let it be. After this game was hope. Dumb, soon-to-be-squashed hope. But, still, it was hope.
If you were secretly lacking in Lon Simmons experience like I was, give this game a listen. The Giants won, the Dodgers lost, and everything was right with the baseball world for a little bit.