Silas Joseph Simmons
Si Simmons is a former Negro League pitcher for numerous minor black teams from 1912 through 1929. He was the longest living professional baseball player in history, having died at the age of 111. The previous record was held by Chet Hoff who died at 107 in 1998.
He began playing for the Germantown Blue Ribbons, a semi-pro team, in 1911. In 1913, the Blue Ribbons became a professional team and were renamed the Homestead Grays, a team that became a Negro League powerhouse over a decade later.
He played mostly on other minor teams and his stints on more notable teams came later in his career. He was on the 1926 New York Lincoln Giants of the Eastern Colored League, for whom he threw two games in relief, and the 1929 Cuban Stars of the Negro National League, for whom he pitched at least one contest. During his career, Simmons played on the same team as Hall of Famer Pop Lloyd and against Hall of Famers Judy Johnson and Biz Mackey.
Simmons ended his baseball career soon after 1929. He and his wife Mary had five children and settled into life as a porter and eventually as an assistant manager at Rosenbaum's Department Store in Plainfield, New Jersey. In 1971, he retired to St. Petersburg, Florida, where he lived for the rest of his days. Simmons had been married in Philadelphia, PA by Rev. John L. Lee on September 15, 1915 to Mary L. "Mamie" Smith (July 19, 1896- ca. 1944) for 29 years until her death. Silas was then married in 1957 for 40 years to his second wife, Rebecca Jones (1901-1997), before her death on August 20, 1997 at the age of 96. He outlived all 5 of his children and had 9 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.
In the fall of 2005, baseball history buff and genealogist David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society rediscovered Silas. Lambert alerted fellow baseball historians associated with the Negro Leagues, who proceeded to interview this link to early baseball. In May 2006, Dr. Layton Revel – founder of the Texas-based Center for Negro League Baseball Research – met and interviewed Mr. Simmons. Dr. Revel organized the alleged 111th birthday celebration for Simmons, in 2006. The celebration included around 30 former Negro League players from around Florida. A plaque was presented to Silas on his birthday on behalf of the Society for American Baseball Research by Lambert. Tampa Bay Devil Rays hitting coach Steve Henderson presented Simmons with a Devil Rays jersey with the number 111 stitched beneath his name on the back.
Simmons died 15 days after the birthday celebration at the Westminster Suncoast Nursing Home in St. Petersburg. At the start of October, he was the fifth-oldest male in the United States, the 17th-oldest person in the country.
Simmons listed his birth date as October 14, 1895 - this is supported by his World War I draft registration card. However, the 1900 United States Census lists Silas as born in November of 1897 - making him 109 years old at the time of his death. However, ages in the U.S. Census were often incorrectly recorded, for instance Simmons' mother, Amy, is also listed with an incorrect age. However, even if he were only 109 at his death, he still would have been older than Chet Hoff.