Simmons poses for a KSFO advertisement in 1971.
|Born||Lonnie Alexander Simmons
July 19, 1923
Vancouver, Washington, U.S.
|Died||April 5, 2015
Daly City, California, U.S.
|Residence||San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Known for||Broadcasting for the San Francisco Giants (baseball) the San Francisco 49ers (American football)|
|Home town||Burbank, California|
Lonnie Alexander "Lon" Simmons (July 19, 1923 – April 5, 2015) was an American baseball and football broadcaster, and was broadcasting part-time for the San Francisco Giants at the time of his death. He was born in Vancouver, Washington. Simmons was a star pitcher at Burbank High School and Glendale College before enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard. After World War II, he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and pitched briefly in their minor league system.
His radio career began in Elko, Nevada, and he first announced baseball for a semipro league in Marysville, California. After spending three years broadcasting Fresno State sports on KMJ, Simmons came to San Francisco in 1957 as the color announcer for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League, teamed with play-by-play announcer Bob Fouts. In 1958, Simmons took over as play-by-play announcer on 49ers radio broadcasts, paired with former 49er Gordy Soltau. Simmons remained in that role through the 1980 season.
Famed "wrong-way" football call
Simmons' most famous call during his first stint with the 49ers came on October 25, 1964, when Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall picked up a fumble by the 49ers' Billy Kilmer and ran it the wrong way, scoring a safety for the 49ers instead of a touchdown for the Vikings (who won the game anyway, by a score of 27-22). The transcript of his call, including his mid-sentence transition as the moment occurred, reads as:
(George) Mira, straight back to pass ... looking, now stops, throws ... completes it to (Billy) Kilmer up at the 30-yard line, Kilmer driving for the first down, loses the football...it is picked up by Jim Marshall who is running the wrong way! Marshall is running the wrong way! And he's running it into the end zone the wrong way, thinks he has scored a touchdown! He has scored a safety! His teammates were running along the far side of the field, Russ (Hodges), trying to tell him go back!
Simmons broadcast games for the San Francisco Giants with Russ Hodges after they moved west in 1958, continuing until 1973. He returned in 1976 for three more years, before moving across the bay to call games for the Oakland Athletics from 1981 through 1995. From 1996 to 2002, he called Giants games part-time.
During Simmons' initial sixteen years with the Giants, the team never won a World Series. With the 49ers, his termination as play-by-play broadcaster was due to the team changing radio stations, with the new station wanting "its own man" to become lead announcer.
During the final two games of the 1989 World Series, Athletics' lead announcer Bill King came down with laryngitis. Simmons was thus able to announce to his radio audience that the A's had won the World Series over Simmons' former team, the Giants.
Simmons' first tenure as 49ers play-by-play announcer lasted 24 years, the team never winning a championship. One year after his departure, San Francisco began a run of Super Bowl victories. Simmons returned as the 49ers' announcer in 1987 and was reunited with long-time colleague, Wayne Walker. During the 1988 regular season, Simmons' call of Steve Young's breathtaking game-winning 49-yard scramble against the Minnesota Vikings became as memorable as the play itself.
The following January, San Francisco won Super Bowl XXIII over the Cincinnati Bengals, 20-16. Simmons' call of the 49ers' Super Bowl game-winning drive (punctuated by a Joe Montana-to-John Taylor TD pass) can be heard on the NFL Films highlights package of the game. Simmons again departed from the 49ers — this time for good — during the 1989 preseason following a dispute with the management at the 49ers' flagship station, KGO Radio.
Simmons was replaced in the play-by-play spot by Joe Starkey, the long-time announcer for the California Golden Bears and an analyst with Simmons on 49ers games in 1987 and 1988; Starkey had taken over play-by-play on several October games during the 1988 season. Starkey retired from the position following the 2008 NFL season. Simmons died on April 5, 2015.
Simmons received the 2004 Ford C. Frick Award, given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to a broadcaster. He was elected to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2006 as a member of the first class to be inducted. Also in 2006, he was inducted into the Glendale Community College Athletic Hall of Fame, along with his teammate, friend and broadcast partner, Bill Thompson. Simmons' trademark call for home runs was "Tell it goodbye!", which is quoted by John Fogerty in his song, Centerfield.
In May 2006, Simmons rejoined the San Francisco Giants as a fill-in broadcaster. He was hired back to be in the booth during four in-season trips to San Francisco from his home in Maui for the 2006 baseball season.
Simmons provided voice samples for Sega's Sports Talk video game series, including Sports Talk Baseball, Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football, NFL Sports Talk Football '93, and NFL Football '94 Starring Joe Montana. Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football was the first video game ever to feature a full play-by-play running commentary.
- NFL Films clip of Jim Marshall wrong way run on YouTube
- Chapin, Dwight (October 22, 1995). "Lon Simmons' voice won't be stilled". SFGate. The San Francisco Examiner.
- "#SFGiants family & Bay Area lost a true gentleman this morning when HOF broadcaster Lon Simmons passed away at age 91". Twitter. San Francisco Giants. April 5, 2015. Retrieved April 5, 2015.