For two men who made their living being involved in the game they loved, Lon Simmons and Bill Thompson had more in common than just baseball. These lifelong friends met as teenagers at Burbank High while playing on the baseball team, and continued their friendship as teammates at Glendale Junior College. That friendship lasted over 60 years until Thomspon passed away in 2003.
Simmons, who was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 as an announcer for his 41 years of working for the New York and San Francisco Giants as well as the Oakland Athletics, said he only had one condition before being inducted into the athletic hall of fame at Glendale College.
“If I go in, I have to ask that Bill Thompson joins me. We were teammates together at Glendale College in the early 1940’s and he had a tremendous career of his own in baseball,’’ Simmons said from his home in Hawaii last fall. “He was a wonderful man, a better friend and one of the best people you could ever meet. I feel like I could never accept this kind of honor from Glendale College unless Bill was being honored as well. I know for a fact we are the only two people who played high school and junior college baseball together who also worked as major league baseball announcers together.’’
Simmons and Thompson worked together for nine years with the Giants in the radio booth alongside hall of fame announcer Russ Hodges. Thompson was hired as a producer for the 1965 season at radio KSFO in San Francisco and soon after was given an inning of his own to announce, the sixth, which became a Thompson trademark in the Bay area. After Hodges retired, Thompson was the No. 2 man in the Giants booth and would move to No. 1 when Simmons was doing radio for the San Francisco 49ers.
In 2002, Simmons and Thompson were inducted together into the Fresno City Hall of Fame because of their long association with the city. Thompson started working in Fresno in the late 1950’s in radio and later returned to Fresno in 1975 to resume his radio career. He later worked as the general manager of the Fresno Giants until they moved to San Jose in 1987.
Simmons is a legend in the Bay area. His famous home run call, “Tell it goodbye” is etched in the memories of many Giants fans to this day. Simmons broadcast the pennant-winning Giants team of 1962 as well as the Oakland A’s teams who reached the World Series from 1998 to 1990. One of Lon’s biggest thrills was calling Willie Mays’ 600th home run. After an incredible announcing career, Simmons retired after the 2002 season.