Sunday, July 22, 2012

SEC Fan's Guide to Mizzou Baseball: John "Hi" Simmons and the glory days of MU Baseball

John Hi Simmons
Since 1937, Missouri baseball has had only three coaches:
  • 1937-1973: John "Hi" Simmons (481-294-3; .621)
  • 1974-1994: Gene McArtor (733-430-3; .630)
  • 1995-Present: Tim Jamieson (604-442-2; .576)
Hi Simmons was hired as an assistant football coach by legendary MU Football Coach Don Faurot, and then moved into the job of baseball coach.

Simmons began coaching at a time when college baseball had virtually no standing in the consciousness of sports fans or the media.  The teams of his first decade played in an era when the typical full season's schedule ranged from 12 to 16 games, with no post-season at all.  During that time, Coach Simmons led his teams to four Big Six Conference championships.

From 1947 through 1967, Simmons' teams won seven conference titles in the Big 7 and Big 8, and finished 2nd seven times.  He took the team deep into the post-season six of those years.
  • 1952 College World Series runner-up
  • 1954 College World Series Champions
  • 1958 College World Series runner-up
  • 1962 College World Series 0-2
  • 1963 College World Series 2-2
  • 1964 College World Series runner-up
Simmons' two greatest teams played in 1954 and 1964.  

The 1954 team pitched and hit its way all the way to the College World Series, then fought its way through the losers bracket to win the championship game.

The 1964 fell one victory short of that championship ring, but along the way it distinguished itself by posting what still stands as the all time lowest team ERA in NCAA history:  0.65

SEC Baseball Fan's Guide to
Mizzou Baseball
Beyond the victories, the true legacy of Coach Simmons is his impact on building the Missouri Baseball program and on the development of College Baseball toward national attention.  Much is said about key coaches in the 70s and 80s who brought NCAA Baseball into the modern age and toward greater popularity and exposure.

But those champions of the game were building on the shoulders of men like John Simmons, who slowly dragged the college game out of the shadows of being a glorified club sport into a true intercollegiate sport, from strictly regional schedules of a dozen or so games to a national schedule of 50 and 60+ games.  He helped move the sport from no postseason to the beginnings of a playoff system leading to an annual dynamic College World Series.

Simmons did a turn as president of the American Baseball Coaches Association.  He spoke out and fought for greater respect from the Major Leagues and a more equitable draft and signing system.

The Tigers' ballpark is known as Taylor Stadium at Simmons Field (and thus the name of this blog).

John Hi Simmons passed away in 1995.

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