In September, the New York Times announced they had discovered a treasure in the form of Silas Simmons, the oldest living baseball player.
Nobody knew that Simmons, a former Negro League player, was still alive until this summer, when a genealogist near the nursing home where he lived in St. Petersburg alerted a Negro leagues expert.
You can read about Simmons again in today’s edition of the New York Times — in the obituary section. Simmons passed away Sunday at his nursing home. He was 111.
A Philadelphia native, Simmons was a left-handed pitcher for the local Germantown Blue Ribbons beginning in either 1912 or 1913, in the primordial and poorly recorded days of organized black baseball. He played for Germantown and other clubs for many years after that, including the New York Lincoln Giants of the Eastern Colored League in 1926 and the Negro National League’s Cuban Stars in 1929.
Simmons told the Times that he thought he was good enough to play in the Major Leagues, but that he never bothered to try out, because he wouldn’t have been given a fair chance.
“A lot of good black players, but they couldn’t play in the league,” he said. “So that was it. After Jackie Robinson came up, they found out how good they were and started recruiting. You have to give them a chance to play.
“Negroes had a lot of pride. They felt like baseball, that was the greatest thing in the world for them. You had some great players in those days. Biz Mackey. Pop Lloyd. Judy Johnson. Scrappy Brown, the shortstop. We played against all those players.”
Now that Simmons is no more, we are left wondering who is the new oldest living player? It could be any one of a number of guys that nobody’s ever heard of, but my money is on Edgar Renteria.