Pro Perspective: Duke Sims
Pro Perspective: Duke Sims
- Cleveland Indians, 1964 - 1970; Los Angeles Dodgers, 1971 - 1972; Detroit Tigers, 1972 - 1973; New York Yankees, 1973 - 1974; Texas Rangers, 1974.
Duke’s Road to the Majors
Duke Sims was born on June 5, 1941 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Though born in Utah, Sims ended up moving to Idaho, where he played at Pocatello High School in Pocatello, Idaho.
He is one of only two players from Pocatello High to make it to the majors. The other is former Kansas City Athletics and New York Yankees first baseman Kent Hadley.
Sims signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1959 at the age of 18. His first professional seasons was with the North Platte Indians, located in Nebraska.
Duke went on to spend the next four-plus seasons in the minor leagues playing for teams such as the Burlington Indians, Charleston Indians, Jacksonville Suns and the Portland Beavers.
Playing for the Cleveland Indians
Sims made his big league debut for the Cleveland Indians on September 22, 1964 in a home game against the reigning AL Pennant winners, the New York Yankees.
He saw more playing time for Cleveland in 1965, splitting time behind the dish that season with fellow catchers Joe Azcue, Phil Roof, and Cam Carreon.
By 1967 he was evenly splitting catching duties with Joe Azcue, and by 1969 he was the Indians’ primary catcher.
One of Duke's best seasons in his career came in 1969, where he finished with a 3.2 WAR. Though he hit just .236, he slugged 18 home runs, gunned down 26 base runners, and was among the top five AL catchers in Fielding Percentage, Double Plays Turned, and Range Factor/Game.
Sims also had a productive 1970 season in Cleveland, as he set career highs (more than 100 ABs) in hits (91), home runs (23), RBIs (56), SLG (.499) and Total Bases (172).
Jumping Around the Big Leagues
During the 1970 offseason, Sims was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He spent the next year and a half in as a Dodger, sharing catching duties over that period with Tom Haller and Joe Ferguson.
Sims appeared in a total of 141 games for the Dodgers, and he hit 8 home runs and collected 36 RBIs while in Los Angeles.
In the summer of ’72, the Detroit Tigers selected Sims off waivers. He was with Detroit for a little over a year (118 games total) and made the only playoff appearance of his career in the 1972 ALCS against the eventual World Series champs that year, the Oakland Athletics.
Sims was again claimed off waivers in September of 1973 by the New York Yankees.
On September 30, 1973 against his former team, the Detroit Tigers, Sims hit a 7th inning home run off of Fred Holdsworth. As it was the last game in the original Yankee Stadium, Duke holds the distinction of hitting the last homer at the famed ballpark.
Sims would go on to play in a total of 9 games for the Yankees, and in May of 1974 he was traded to the Texas Rangers. He spent the rest of the season with the Rangers, appearing in 39 games and hitting .208 with 3 home runs.
Sims retired from baseball after being released by the Texas Rangers in January of 1975.
In 11 MLB seasons, Sims hit .239 with 580 hits, exactly 100 home runs, 310 RBIs and a 12.8 career WAR. Defensively, Sims had a career .986 Fielding Percentage as a catcher, with 160 runners Caught Stealing (35%).
In addition to catching, Duke also had some MLB playing time as an outfielder, a first baseman, and a DH.
Q&A with Duke Sims
Duke is a former MLB catcher with over 5,000 innings spent behind the plate in major league games.
He has played on the same team with Hall of Famers Don Sutton, Al Kaline and Ferguson Jenkins, as well as other Baseball legends like Rocky Colavito, Dick Allen and Steve Garvey.
A few months back, I sent Duke a letter asking for his feedback on the questions I typically ask big league catchers. He took the time to answer my questions and sign a card for me.
Following all the others in this Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share Duke’s perspective with readers in the hope that his input will be a help to catchers looking to improve their game.
Here are Duke’s responses to my questions, as you can also read in the image below.
Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the major leagues?
Answer: The greatness of the game back then and the fun in the clubhouse.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: 1. Quick hands and feet.
Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to a young catcher hoping to one day play at the next level, what would it be?
Answer: 1. Today’s catchers are too deep in the box. Teach your kids to move towards the pitcher and receive the ball not reach for it.
Duke’s advice is practical and able to be applied quite easily. Work on improving your hand and feet quickness, and on becoming a better receiver. Don’t reach for the ball and don’t sit back too deep in the box.
Add this to the solid and growing list of catching advice we’ve received from numerous big league catchers!
Thank You for Reading
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