When I learned that my former boss Anthony “Tex” Simone passed away on Friday morning, I was reminded of a great scene from the TV show Mad Men.
After an elderly secretary died, one of the advertising firm’s head honchos gave her the following eulogy:
“She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut.”
It was a little bit like that for Tex Simone.
He rose from humble beginnings to become a legendary figure in his beloved home town of Syracuse, NY. Because of his passion for baseball, Tex left a promising career in business to join the grounds crew of the minor league Syracuse Chiefs in 1961. When the athletic trainer suffered a heart attack in the middle of the season, he added those responsibilities despite having no formal training. In 1967 he became the team’s business manager and public relations director. In 1970 he was promoted to general manager and he ran the franchise for more than 40 years. In 2008, Tex was named to the International League Hall of Fame.
On a personal note, I owe Tex Simone and his son John my career. I was a 21-year-old senior at Syracuse University when the Simones gave me the opportunity to be a professional baseball broadcaster a month before graduation. In a business where getting your first job can be a daunting challenge, it was an incredible break and I will always be grateful.
Tex was a very kind man and a joy to work for, but he did call me into his office once to reprimand me.
It was a few games into my first season as the Chiefs’ radio voice. The team had played an afternoon home game on a bitterly cold April day in Syracuse (shocking, I know) and I described the brutal weather conditions in painstaking detail as if I were The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore.
The next day, Tex called me into his office and said, “It is never cold at the ballpark!”
“Excuse me?” I replied.
“I don’t ever want to hear you say that it’s cold at the ballpark,” he said. “You can tell folks to bring a jacket, wear a sweater, and pack their hat and gloves, but don’t say how lousy the weather is. We’ve got tickets to sell!”
It was a valuable lesson. He wasn’t telling me to be dishonest – just to remember that part of my job was to try to make a trip to the ballpark sound enjoyable. I have used that advice ever since.
For years I have also used Tex Simone as something of an “ace in the hole.” When I hosted the Cincinnati Reds pregame show on Fox Sports Ohio, I would often have to get pregame interviews with opposing players and coaches. Whenever I thought the person I was interviewing knew Tex, I would drop his name to break the ice and put the subject at ease. That led to great interviews with Bobby Cox, Bobby Valentine, Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, and many others.
Roughly 10 years after I called my last Chiefs game, I returned to Syracuse as the radio voice of the Pawtucket Red Sox. By then Tex was in declining health, but he always made an effort to trek up to the broadcast booth whenever I was in town to say hello and ask me about my family and career. I was thrilled that Pawtucket happened to be the opponent in August of 2008 when Tex was inducted into the I.L. Hall of Fame and I got to be there for the ceremony.
Tex Simone was a one-of-a-kind American success story who enriched the lives of all of us who were lucky to know him.
In the baseball world, he was an astronaut.
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