Playing for the American Association’s Brewers in his native Milwaukee, 19-year-old Al Szymanski grew tired of people butchering his surname and, upon seeing an advertisement for “Simmons Hardware,” adopted a new last name. Players and fans may not have remembered Al Szymanski, but nobody ever forgot Al Simmons. In the realm of Hall of Fame, game-used and World Series collectibles, it doesn’t get more spectacular than the offered heirloom: a Hillerich & Bradsby bat wielded by Simmons in the 1929 Fall Classic. Decidedly alluring in that regard, the weapon holds additional appeal in that it is autographed by teammate Lefty Grove.
Having set ample precedent by hitting well over .300 in five successive seasons, Simmons was the complete player in 1929, posting gaudy totals including a .365 average, 34 home runs and a league-best 157 RBI. Coinciding with Simmons’ individual exploits, the Athletics, too, were peaking. With 104 triumphs in 1929, Connie Mack’s troops left “Murderers Row” a whopping 18 games off the pace and touched off a three-year aggregate total of 313 wins, an American League mark surpassed only by the 1969-1971 Orioles. And while Simmons was one of multiple components that comprised an almost unbeatable roster, his game-used weapon stands alone as one of the most breathtaking October relics extant.
Graded GU-8 by John Taube, PSA/DNA, the war club is extravagant in both dimensions and status. Turned from high-grade hickory by Hillerich & Bradsby, the signature model stands at 37-3/4” and weighs 35.7 ounces. Retaining its significant measurements and furniture-like finish, the uncracked bat exhibits evidence of outstanding game use with ball marks, stitch impressions and bat-rack streaks about the barrel. Just below the prominent barrel stampings, Lefty Grove has signed in black-ink steel tip fountain pen. The bold signature maintains every bit of (“6-7”) strength and clarity. The length and weight are consistent with Simmons orders placed on May 8, 1929 and June 1, 1930. Of significant note is an order placed by Simmons on September 18, 1929. Upon checking the bat ordering ledgers of teammates Mickey Cochrane and Jimmie Foxx, it was discovered that they, too, had placed orders on September 18, with Cochrane’s order including the reference “World Series.”
With high probability of use in the 1929 World Series, this diamond artifact is nothing short of sacred. It was Simmons who sparked perhaps the most devastating rally in Fall Classic annals. With the Chicago Cubs ahead, 8-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 4 at Shibe Park, it appeared as though the series was going to be knotted at two games apiece. But Simmons led off the frame with a solo home run off of Charlie Root. Simmons would bat again and single and score in that same inning as 14 batters came to the plate. All told, the Athletics scored 10 times to completely demoralize the Cubs. Grove, who actually led the American League with nine saves that year, earned a save in this one and the Athletics closed out the series two days later. Overshadowed by his performance (or lack thereof) three years later when he was victimized by Babe Ruth’s “called shot,” the Philly uprising had to be ten times as devastating for Root.
There for the tail end of a storybook season and the start of a heralded dynasty, this bat is deserving of superlatives as is certain to headline any high-end collection. Full photo LOA from PSA/DNA (for bat) and full photo LOA from JSA (for Grove autograph).