Former Negro League pitcher and outfielder Hubert "Bert" Simmons died on Wednesday July 8, 2009 at Seasons Hospice at Northwest Hospital Center in the Baltimore area at the age of 85. Simmons played in 1950 for the Baltimore Elite Giants. With Simmons' passing, the only four known living former Baltimore Elite Giants are James "Red" Moore, Andy Porter, Clyde Parris and Clinton "Butch" McCord.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Simmons during the past two Judy Johnson Foundation tributes at the Wilmington Blue Rocks stadium. He was an engaging individual, signing autographs for everyone and readily willing to share his experiences about playing professional baseball and serving in World War II with anyone who asked. We talked about the finer points of throwing a curve ball (his expertise), how he was recruited by Dick Powell to play for Baltimore, and some of his great teammates in Thomas "Pee Wee" Butts, Junior Gilliam, Joe Black and Henry Kimbro. He says that Butts and Gilliam were the best double play combination that he had ever seen. Simmons was also kind enough to pass along some advice on teaching high school students, which has helped me in my journey in education.
Last summer, Simmons was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in the June 2008 Major League Baseball "Negro Leagues Draft", which he said was his greatest honor in baseball. Simmons was held in high regard in the Baltimore area, where he made countless appearances promoting the memory of Negro League baseball. His generosity will be missed, and his memory will live on through the Negro League's Baseball Museum of Maryland where he was co-president. It is located in the Lochearn Presbyterian Church on Patterson Avenue in Baltimore County, and is set to open in September. Here is a video of Simmons and Ray Banks talking about the museum.
Below is an interview from 21st Century Radio with Dr. Bob Hieronimus
For more information on Bert Simmons, explore the following websites:
Baltimore Sun Obituary
Baltimore Afro-American Obituary
Examiner Article On Simmons Furthering the Legacy of the Negro Leagues
North Carolina A+T Baseball Alumni Association Article
Baseball in Wartime - Detailing Bert Simmons' WWII Experience
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