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Tommy Simone had much to live for—a close supportive family; good friends; excellent grades; athletic talent; maturity beyond his 12 years.
Most visual in Tommy’s life were achievements in sports. He simply excelled — whatever the sport, whatever the season. Football marked his fall, basketball his winter, baseball his spring and summer.
Tommy combined uncommon athletic prowess with a drive to succeed that was rare for his age. He drilled over and over to perfect his skills.
His own and rival coaches conceded that the happy, modest youngster caused a lasting impression — wherever he competed. Tommy lost his life in mid-April. He was struck by a police patrol wagon, hurrying to answer a distress call, as he crossed Independence Avenue near the Monroe Avenue intersection in the
Darkness and the speed of the vehicle, dispatched on a “Code 3” (without flashing lights or sirens) hampered vision of Tommy, wearing his baseball sweatsuit, and the driver. The Northland boy is remembered as the kid everybody liked. He smiled a lot, he was a modest hard-worker, he sidestepped arguments with teammates. His baseball coach, Clay Green, said Tommy’s special gift was that he gave back whatever he received — respect, love, friendship.
Green watched Tommy develop from a mediocre pitcher for Lightfoot Photography in the Clay-Platte Baseball League to an outstanding one. The coach recalls countless hours Tommy pitched to his father Anthony, his pitching coach. Basketball coach Tom Laughlin, who guided Tommy for four seasons in the Metro Parochial League, can’t remember a missed practice. Tommy was a sixth-grade center last winter for the team at St. Patrick’s Church, where he was an alter boy and straight A church school student.
Laughlin, who also coached Tommy in two seasons of flag football, remembers a team player, team leader and confidence builder, who never took advantage of a size edge and never backed away from larger opponents.
After Tommy’s death, a rival center, a year older and taller, wrote Tommy’s parents that their son was the most-threatening opponent he had ever faced, including boys his own age. Rival basketball coach Warren Roberson of St. Therese describes Tommy as the best his teams ever played against. Roberson was struck by the youth’s pleasant manner and lack of conceit. Tommy stands at the top of the best player he has handled for line coach Raymond “Lefty” Leftridge of the Norbank Raiders. Leftridge recalls a fine young man, always smiling and in control of his anger, who played with full-speed aggressiveness. He earned a berth on the A team, as an offensive tackle and defensive end, when most kids his age were playing in lower classes.
Between games, Tommy practiced with help from his parents and encouragement of his sister Savina, 10, a softball player and the bat girl for Lightfoot.
The Simones’ other child is Rosemarie, six months. Tommy pitched to his dad until dusk the day of his death. The Tom Simone Memorial Scholarship Fund, and incorporated charitable foundation, will honor Tommy annually with awards to area scholar-athletes. Plans are being finalized, and the likely recipients each year are a grade school and a high school student. Kansas City sports professionals on the foundation board will assist with the fund-raising. A local bank is administering the fund. Contributions are tax-deductible.
Tommy’s dozen years form a vivid legacy for his contemporaries.