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In memoriam: Lon Simmons

Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Bill Thompson

A sad note for the new season: Longtime Bay Area broadcaster Lon Simmons passed away peacefully yesterday. The former voice of the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s was 91.

“Like many fans, my earliest Giants memories were listening to Lon and Russ on my transistor radio,” said Giants President and CEO Larry Baer. “Hearing his broadcasts ignited my and thousands of others’ passion for Giants baseball. He will be deeply missed by all of us.”

Best known for his booming baritone voice, encyclopedic sports knowledge, flair for the dramatic and self-deprecating sense of humor, Simmons — already known to Bay Area sports fans as sports director of KSFO — was on the team’s first San Francisco broadcast team when he joined Russ Hodges in the booth in 1958. (Hodges came with the team from New York; he’s shown in the left in the picture above, with Bill Thompson, who joined the broadcast team in 1965, on the right.) Simmons and Hodges worked together for 13 years.

In 1973, Simmons retired temporarily and then returned to the Giants in 1976 for three more years. He then moved across the bay to Oakland, where he teamed with Bill King and Ray Fosse to broadcast Athletics games from 1981-95. In 1996, he returned to the Giants broadcast team again, working a partial schedule, until his retirement after the 2002 season. In recent years he was a community ambassador for the Giants, visiting San Francisco on selected homestands as well as during the offseason and Scottsdale for spring training.

Simmons broadcast the pennant-winning Giants team of 1962 and he counted as his biggest thrills calling the 60oth home run of Willie Mays and the dramatic home run that marked the return of Willie McCovey to San Francisco in 1977. For those and many other home runs, Simmons gave his trademark call of “tell it goodbye!”

He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in the summer of 2004 as the Ford C. Frick award winner.

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