Great story in the New York Times today about Si Simmons, who must be the oldest living person to ever play a semblance of pro baseball. He turns 111 next month and he played Negro League baseball before the Negro Leagues even existed. He started playing ball in 1912 and retired in 1929, playing some for the legendary Homestead Grays.
Having grown up in a central Philadelphia row house on 17th and Bainbridge Streets, Simmons was a left-handed pitcher who was signed by the nearby Germantown Blue Ribbons, a well-regarded team. He said he started pitching for the Blue Ribbons at age 16 or 17, meaning 1912 or 1913. Box scores and articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer describe the 5-foot-10 Simmons as routinely striking out 10 or more batters while getting a hit or two a game.
Simmons had difficulty remembering all the teams he played on. While unable to explain in detail, he indicated that players, particularly pitchers, were often picked up by other teams for brief stretches, so he might have played select games for other teams as well. (Experts confirmed that this practice was commonplace.) Researchers have uncovered box scores and game recaps with his name from many years throughout the 1910’s and beyond.
Two box scores from 1926 show Simmons pitching in relief for the New York Lincoln Giants of the Eastern Colored League. He also played at least one game for the Negro National League’s Cuban Stars in 1929.