Friday, June 6, 2014

In Memoriam: Don Zimmer

Don Zimmer passed away at the age of 83 on Tuesday.  Simply put, Zimmer was a baseball lifer and what a life he led.  He experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but it almost ended before it started.  As a minor league player, Zimmer was hit by a pitch in the temple. He was unconscious for 13 days after the surgery where they drilled holes in his skull to relieve the pressure.  He would recover and his career resumed.
1958 Topps

As a player, he made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.  He was mentored by Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese and was a part of Brooklyn's only World Series championship in 1955.  He again won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1959, this time after the franchise moved to Los Angeles.
Zimmer later became an All Star in 1961 as a Chicago Cub and year later played on the MLB worst 120 loss New York Mets team.  His playing career ended after playing one year in Japan in 1966.
1981 Fleer

Zimmer, however, was best known for being a coach and manager.  His managerial career started in 1972 with the San Diego Padres.  His tenure with San Diego lasted just two years before he was hired as the third base coach for the Boston Red Sox.  While in Boston, he took part in the 1975 World Series against the Big Red Machine of the Cincinnati Reds and as a manager from 1976-1980.
His 1978 Boston club is best known for his late season collapse to their archrival New York Yankees.  Boston had as much as a 14 game lead but the Yankees forced a one game playoff for the division crown.  The game was won by a home run by light hitting Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent.
Zimmer's next stint as a manager was with Texas Rangers from 1981-82 before going back to coaching.  One of his stays as a coach was with New York Yankees and coincidentally, he rented Bucky Dent's apartment while in New York.  Zimmer noticed that on just about every wall, Dent had a picture of his home run that ended Zimmer's 1978 Boston season.  Zimmer decided to flip each and every picture over to have them the wall so he not be reminded of constantly.
His last managerial job was with the Chicago Cubs.  He was named NL Manager of the Year in 1989 when he lead the Cubs to the division crown.  Zimmer then finished his big league career as a bench coach for the New York Yankees, winning four World Series championships from 1996-2000 and as a Tampa Bay Ray.
All in all, Zimmer spent a total of 66 years in the game.  He began as a teammate of Jackie Robinson and later coached Derek Jeter.  Quite a career. 

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