Rod Simons, one of the best known Northwest sports anchors in the 1980s and ‘90s as KSTW sports director, died Monday while covering the Minnesota Twins spring training in Fort Meyers, Florida. He was 56.
Simons’ cause of death was an apparent heart attack, friends said.
“When it came to him being good to people, there were no off days,” former co-worker Jesse Jones recalled.
A Pasco native who graduated from Washington State University in 1983, Simons worked in the Tri-Cities and Boise, Idaho, before getting his break in 1986 at KSTW. He was hired to anchor the new 10 p.m. weekend news with current ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne.
Jones, who got his start there working the weekend assignment desk, remembers the first lesson Simons taught him when the job -- and Jones himself -- was intense.
“He always told me it was fun,” Jones recalled. “He would just keep hammering me: ‘This is fun, man. Go out and have fun.’
“If you look at his work, you can see he led by example.”
When Randy Johnson threw the first no-hitter in Mariners history, baseball fans turned to watch Simons’ recap special that next Sunday night. When The Reign Man and The Glove became household names, Simons was there reporting from the Seattle Center Coliseum.
“He was always upbeat, always excited about the story, whether it was a Sonics playoff run or a high school basketball game,” friend and KIRO 7 anchor Steve Raible said.
As news of Simons’ death spread, online tributes came from his co-workers and competitors. KOMO anchor Eric Johnson called him “one of the truly fine men of my profession,” and a damned good sportscaster who was always smiling. KING reporter Chris Daniels described him as a personal mentor and a longtime friend “with contagious positivity.” Former Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar, who now works for the Seahawks, recalled Simons’ smile too -- one you’d get “whether you'd seen him last week or 10 years ago.”
He was a guy you'll never forget, longtime P-I sportswriter Dan Raley wrote.
Simons went out of his way for friends, even when it wasn’t expected. Buddy Greg Witter recalled on Facebook trying to find a ticket for the Mariners’ one-game playoff against the Angels in 1995.
“You can sit with me in the press box,” Simons told him. “We'll just say you're job shadowing!"
Simons won multiple Emmy Awards and in 1998 was voted by Seattle Weekly readers as the Best News Team with anchors Don Porter, Christine Chen and meteorologist Neal Barton.
After KSTW stopped their news operation later that year, Simons went to Fox Sports Net -- the predecessor to Root Spots -- where he co-anchored the nightly half-hour “Regional Sports Report” with Tom Glasgow.
“I just remember how he was made for a show like that,” Raible said. “He was so upbeat. He had a great personality.”
Simons and Glasgow were the only sports anchors who went live after the Mariners’ longest game -- a 19-inning marathon that finished the morning of Aug. 2, 2000 -- starting their show shortly before 1 a.m.
“I thought when I left the studio at 2 a.m. I’d be beat today,” Simons told The Seattle Times, “but I’ve been on an adrenaline rush all day. It’s been so exciting, so cool.”
On Facebook, Glasgow recalled that Simons’ priorities were always in order: family first.
In the early 2000s, Simons and his family moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul area where it would be easier for his wife’s job, friend and KIRO 7 photojournalist Jan Kuwahara said. Simons is survived by his wife, Pam, and daughter, Annie.
Simons worked as a sports anchor for Minneapolis-St. Paul station KSTP and later, through Rod Simons Media Communication, ran Game On! TV, which featured freelance television reporting and was a contributor to the Twins broadcasting station, 96.3 FM, the Star Tribune reported.
“Sad day in Fort Myers,” Twins president Dave St. Peter tweeted Monday afternoon. “RIP Rod. God Bless your family. You were ALWAYS a positive light in an often negative world. Definition of class."
When KSTW had it’s final newscast in 1998, Simons used his final signoff to thank the people who helped him, including former news director Jack Eddy, news manager Steve Smith and producer Tony White. Simons said it was his co-anchors who helped their newscasts improve, and thanked the production crew who put the programs on the air.
Simons listed nearly two dozen co-workers -- “We’ve loved working with all these folks,” he said.
“Growing up in Eastern Washington, I always dreamed of working here in Seattle – it’s a great sports town,” Simons said in his sign-off. “Thanks to all the players and fans.
“It has been an honor.”
Simon's final signoff from KSTW starts at the 46:50 mark.
Rod Simons with Roscoe at Mariners spring training, 1991
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