When I was growing up as a young broadcaster, my idol was none other than Lon Simmons. Today, Lon turns 90 and I wanted to take the opportunity to post an appreciation for one of the Bay Area's true play-by-play legends.
Though his signature "Tell it goodbye!" homerun call was famous, what Lon was perhaps best known for on the air was his dry sense of humor. When the A's had both Rick Langford and Carney Lansford, Bill King once flubbed the names twice in one game and bemoaned, "I always have trouble with 'Langford' and 'Lansford'!" To which Lon replied, "Yeah, I have the same problem with 'Griffin' and 'Bochte.'" Only Lon could watch a trainer tend to a catcher after a foul tip and report, "It looks like he'll be all right...just as soon as he stops bleeding and throwing up." And with Mark Clear throwing his warmup pitches, you had to be vigilant to catch Lon reporting, in a deadpan voice, that "On a forever day, you can see Clear." Behind the microphone Lon wasn't just a funny guy, though: When the ball was put in play, his descriptions were crisp and vivid, delivered with an economy of words.
I wrote my college thesis on "the art and science of play-by-play" and one of my key interviews for the thesis was Lon Simmons. Ever gracious, Lon found time after a game to sit with me, some college kid, up in the press box for about an hour. He also provided me with one of my biggest broadcast thrills when he agreed to join me on the air for an inning during one of my A's spring training broadcasts.
Now 90 and on the wrong side of battles with cancer, it would be easy to regard Lon as "some legend who retired a while ago" -- because that's how we often regard legends of a prior generation, especially when they largely disappear from public view. However, all these years later Lon is still one of the best play-by-play announcers the game has ever had as well as one of its true gentlemen.
For me personally, I want to thank Lon for a childhood's worth of vivd play-by-play and laughter, and for his generosity in making time for me that he didn't have to make. On behalf of A's fans, and sports fans, everywhere I want to thank him for being one the best, and classiest, broadcasters in the Bay Area for so many decades. Lon, if your 90s treat you half as well as you treated Bay Area sports fans, you're in for a good run.