Opening Day ceremonies are mere hours away, and although I’m extremely excited about all the possibilities that a new season brings, I’m holding back that enthusiasm a little so that I can honor one of the great voices of my lifetime, Lon Simmons.
Baseball was one of the first games I remember playing as a child. I didn’t understand the game’s complexities very much because it was pared down for little kids to be able to play, but it was always fun, and something we did as a family. My brother, parents, and extended family could always pick up a bat, or ball, or glove, and play.
Then magic happened, and Major League Baseball came to town. My father had grown up with the San Francisco Seals, and talked often about local stars like the DiMaggio Brothers. But with the Giants it was a whole new, well, ballgame. I started listening to games while helping Dad in the yard. Back then, everyone had a radio on so the games were in stereo, coming from all directions in the neighborhood. The voices of Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons became an important piece in the background music of my childhood.
I really enjoyed listening to games and the pictures that Russ and Lon painted of the action. Lon’s voice was so soothing, and I loved hearing him say, ‘And you can tell it good-bye!’ I’ll never forget him calling the ‘bye-bye-baby bonanza!’ when Mays hit his 600th home run. As a young girl, just the phrase ‘Bye, Bye Baby!’ was fun to say and so descriptive. As an adult, I still appreciate it for the same reasons. When the Giants hit a home run now, and the classic ‘Bye Bye Baby’ song is played at AT&T Park, my neighbor Joan and I rise from our seats and sing it as loudly and as enthusiastically as we can, even when they turn the song off before the last verse is played. We just keep going, and will continue as long as we have voices.
This year our singing will have special meaning with Lon’s passing. It will be our way of honoring him, and his great skills in calling games and painting pictures of the action. I’ve heard that he mentored Duane Kuiper throughout the years, and I’m so glad that Kuip is carrying on Lon’s tradition. We’ve been lucky to have both of them as part of the Giants family.
So rest in peace, Lon. Know that you’ve left an amazing legacy to Giants fans everywhere, and we’ll never forget you. On Opening Day this year, we’ll honor you with a moment of silence but your memory will live on. Thank you.