In the “world” of APBA, we come from many different backgrounds and upbringings. APBA games are played world wide, in many countries. However, what has been difficult to gauge is the occurrence of women playing APBA. Yes, there are women playing APBA. The APBA Journal (February double issue, 1999) featured an interview with Alison Gordon. The late Alison Gordon, who began covering the Toronto Blue Jays in 1979 as a Toronto Star sports writer, was an APBA devotee.
Some of you may have become familiar with Shay Caroline Simmons, by keeping up with one of her APBA replays (1967 AL Replay and her current 1969 AL Replay postings) on her blog site titled, “Fireblossom’s APBA Baseball Blog“.
I reached out to Shay for an interview, and she was more than happy to oblige. Onto the questions for Shay …
Jimsapbabarn question #1: Tell us about yourself, outside of APBA, growing up, school, family, etc?
Shay Caroline Simmons: I am a Michigander and have lived here for all but 9 of my 61 years. My father was a newspaperman and it is from him that I came to love much of what I still love today, including baseball. For my ’69 replay I am using reference books from The Sporting News that he bought for me on his own because he knew I was so into it. He also liked to bring home records (music) for me, and I still love classical and jazz because of it. I grew up in a house filled with books, and my father read to me at bed time. Books, along with baseball, are the loves of my life. Thanks, Daddy. He also introduced me to slapstick comedy, which still makes me ROFL. My mother used to walk through the room while we were cracking up and just purse her lips and shake her head and go on cleaning. I have two much older brothers. The closest one to me in age is 9 years older than I am, and he *loved* cars. He taught me to identify all the makes and models of the 60s and also the 50s cars which were still rolling around by that time. I don’t know a thing about engines or any of that, but I still love classic cars from that era, because of my brother and his enthusiastic love for them, and his kindness in including me. Does my family of origin sound like a male enclave? It was. I grew up around sports stuff, cars, music, and so forth. I loved Barbies but I also collected baseball cards. We took a lot of vacations, my parents and me (my brothers were gone by then) and my father and I would go hiking. It was lovely. It still soothes my soul to be in nature. Michigan is a wonderful place for that.
Son Joe, with Shay
Jimsapbabarn question #2: How did you discover APBA?
Shay Caroline Simmons: APBA! Here’s a shocker….I didn’t like it the first time I played it! Ha! I’ll come back to that in a sec. When I was 12, my parents (I now I realize it was my dad, really) gave me Ethan Allen’s Cadaco All-Star Baseball game, the one with the player discs and spinners. I loved that game. We stayed at a rented beach cottage that summer and I played the heck out of that game the whole while. Back at home, my friend’s older brother gave me his player discs from the 50’s, so I had more players. The same guy had APBA and let us play it once, but I hated it because I couldn’t understand why my hits were never hits! I now realize it was because my friend must have had a high grade pitcher. I still remember that I chose the Reds and Pirates, but don’t recall which team I was. The Reds, I think.
So, other things took my attention for a number of years, just growing up and moving out and such. Then, when I was 25, I was reading Street & Smith’s annual baseball preview mag–another tradition picked up from my dad–and saw an ad for APBA. I ordered the brochure, and got the two free cards and after reading the brochure I ordered the game, which included the 1979 season cards. I pretty much immediately got my old boss from my first job–my friend and mentor–hooked on it, too.
Jimsapbabarn question #3: When did you decide to become an author?
Shay Caroline Simmons: Ha! Well…..I don’t think I decided. From my earliest memories, I remember being low to the ground and scoping out the book shelves. Later, I would find some hidden treasure–often it was one of those Strange But True! paperbacks–and curl up with it for the rest of the day. My father was a writer (journalism) and so the banging of a typewriter and the presence of all of the paraphernalia of writing were always around. Right now, I am sitting at my dad’s old desk writing this. I began writing little stories when I was quite young. Later, in 10th grade, my English teacher told me to forget what the class was doing, and just write. My first publication in a magazine (Speakeasy) came when i was just 18, in 1973. I was published maybe three dozen times between 18 and 26, then I gave it up. I got married, got the job I still have, and raised a son. I didn’t return to writing until 2006, but I am so glad that I did. I have two books of poetry, one of short stories, and two collaborations of poetry.
Jimsapbabarn question #4: I noticed you have been actively blogging since 2008. What is the best part of blogging and what do you recommend to someone who might be thinking about starting a blog?
Shay Caroline Simmons: I began the Word Garden mostly as a place to organize and keep my poems, but through it I met so many other talented people, and the blog made me want to post, and therefore want to write, more often than I would have just for myself. So, the best part of blogging is the community. As for advice, I would say, do it for yourself, first. if it means something to you–whether it is poetry or fly fishing–it will mean something to someone else, too. Don’t hedge, don’t fudge, don’t be cute; put what you love out there, and you’ll be rewarded.
Jimsapbabarn question #5: 1967 and 1969 are replay endeavors of yours. What replays might be next?
Shay Caroline Simmons: Love this question! There are two I absolutely positively want to play, and those are 1956 and 1964. After that, there are a whole slew of seasons I’d love to get to: 1950, 57, 59, 66, 70, 73, 82, 84 and 87. But also, after 35 years, I have the itch to replay 1979 AL over again with the reissue. When I played ’79 before, both leagues, it was my first project. I played with 20 man teams until September, when I added the XB’s, and used none of the advanced stuff. Looking back, I have no idea how I managed a season with such tiny rosters. Anyway, I’d love to play it again, after all this time, and use all the tweaks.
Jimsapbabarn question #6: What does APBA mean to you, and do you have any thoughts for John Herson, CEO of APBA Game Co.?
APBA has been a friend for many years. I did put the game aside from 2002-2015, but now i am again as hooked as ever. It is an entertaining alternate world that is absorbing and so much fun. It’s an old friend. I love that I can send the teams of my childhood out onto the field once again. Plus, for me with my creative bent, the players and teams take on personalities as things unfold. My thoughts for Mister Herson are simply this: Thank you.
A quick Around the Horn with Shay Caroline Simmons …
Your favorite sport and/or sports teams?
Baseball! It has been my life long love and passion. My father, my favorite aunt (his sister), my maternal grandmother, all of them were big baseball fans. For a time, from the late 60s until not so many years ago, I also really liked ice hockey, but the explosion of teams and dilution of talent made me lose interest in the NHL. The Detroit Tigers are, and will always be, my boys. While rooting around looking for APBA stuff the other day, I came upon a 1964 Tigers pennant, with a team picture on it, from my very first game that my dad took me to that year. What a find. I loved the Red Wings hockey team through thick and thin for many years, but as I’ve said, not so much anymore. I also used to really like bowling, both to play and to watch, but it’s never on anymore. I used to have the APBA bowling game, but don’t know what became of it.
Your favorite athlete (past and present)?
Past–Al Kaline, “Mr. Tiger.” A classier man you won’t find anywhere. Present–Miggy. What a pleasure it is to watch this man do what he does, day in and day out.
Your favorite author?
Emily Dickinson. I visited the Dickinson home in Amherst a few years ago, and was overwhelmed with what i felt there. I love that she was a fiery introvert, as I am, a passionate woman who wrote honestly and in her own distinct style, despite being told she needed to conform to poetic mores of the day. In fact, her work was not published as she wrote it, without revision by learned lunkheads, until 1950! I identify so much with her life and work.
Your favorite play-by-play announcer?
Jim Brockmire! LOL. I would have to say Rod Allen, the Tigers’ TV color commentator. He points out things that I would not have noticed, but does so without being pedantic, a la the insufferable Joe Morgan. Rod says things the ballplayers say, like “That one came to eat!” and “I see ya, Miggy!” He always seems enthused about baseball and the Tigers. I really like him. My favorite hockey announcer was Bruce Martin. I learned hockey by listening to him, and his “he shoots he SCOOOoores!” was classic. I wish APBA’s hockey game was more fun; I find it ponderous. I’d love to play an old Red Wings season.
Your favorite ballpark?
Tiger Stadium, hands down. When I say I loved that place, I really did. My dad took me to scads of games, and I have so many happy memories of the old girl. My childhood wasn’t the happiest…I had medical issues, and there was other stuff going on, but a trip to Tiger Stadium to watch the Tigers was pure joy. After it closed, for years I would occasionally dream that I was there again, and it always felt like coming home. My heart is there.
I asked Shay about the Summer of ’76 (Fidrych) … it happened to be one summer Shay was living outside of Michigan: “I was living overseas in 1976, and saw the famous Yankees game on tape delay. The Tigers weren’t very good at the time, and it was very exciting to see the big crowd and all of the Bird’s antics. I never saw him pitch because I was away that entire year and his career was extremely short.”
Thank you Shay, for providing insight into the life of an APBA devotee, Tiger fanatic, Red Wing rooter, and poet extraordinaire! Whether APBA or Poetry, best wishes with your future endeavors!