Before the 1979 season began, Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons pledged to increase his power production, telling The Sporting News he would try to hit as many as 30 home runs.
Simmons then backed those words with the most potent longball surge produced by a Cardinals catcher in the first half of a season.
With 12 home runs this year, Yadier Molina is one of only two catchers in Cardinals history to have at least a dozen before July, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other is Simmons, who crushed 18 homers before July in 1979.
Simmons hit four homers in 20 games in April and six homers in 24 games in May. He then went on a tear in June, hitting eight homers with 24 RBI in 18 games.
In a three-game stretch from June 9 through June 11, Simmons hit four home runs with 10 RBI.
The hot streak started when Simmons hit a two-run homer, his 13th, off Tom Tellmann, a right-handed reliever making his major-league debut, in the Cardinals’ 7-4 victory over the Padres on June 9 at St. Louis. Boxscore
The following day, Sunday, June 10, Simmons snapped a 2-2 tie in the fifth with a solo homer off left-hander Randy Jones, lifting the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Padres at St. Louis. Boxscore
Simmons capped the stretch with a pair of homers that drove in six runs in the Cardinals’ 9-7 victory over the Dodgers on June 11 at Los Angeles. The switch-hitter ripped a grand slam, the sixth of his career, off left-hander Jerry Reuss in the third inning. With the score 7-7 in the ninth, Simmons hit a two-run homer off right-hander Lerrin LaGrow. Boxscore
That gave Simmons seven homers in his last 13 games and nine in his last 17. Simmons had 29 RBI in that 17-game stretch.
“At 29, I have reached the point where I know what I am doing at the plate,” Simmons said to the Associated Press. “I’ve turned into the hitter I’ve always wanted to be.”
Simmons elaborated to United Press International: “I started trying to pull the ball about three years ago and that’s when the homers started coming. In our park, you don’t get a home run without pulling the ball.”
Simmons hit his 17th and 18th homers, both solo shots, off left-hander Kevin Kobel in the Cardinals’ 4-2 victory over the Mets on June 22 at St. Louis. His second homer of the game, leading off the seventh, broke a 2-2 tie. Boxscore
He didn’t hit another until July 30.
On June 24, Simmons fractured his left wrist when struck by a foul ball against the Mets. He was batting .321 with 18 homers and 52 RBI when injured.
Simmons was sidelined for a month, returning on July 24. The injury cost him his shot at 30 homers. He played in 123 games, his fewest since 1970. Still, he finished with 26 homers, a career high.
Previously: Simmons rates with Cardinals Hall of Famers