Earlier this week, Don Zimmer, a senior adviser in the Tampa Bay Rays front office past away at the age of 83. Zim’s life was baseball and he did as much as he could to be a part of it for as long as he possibly could. He was a true baseball legend with connections for nearly half of the Major League teams after more than sixty years in the game. Baseball goes on, but it will not be the same without him.
Don Zimmer was the Forrest Gump of baseball. He met Babe Ruth. He was teammates with Jackie Robinson. He was an original New York Met. He managed to turn the Chicago Cubs into a division winner. He played key roles on both sides of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry as manager for the Red Sox in the 70s and as bench coach for the Yankees under Joe Torre in the 90s and early 2000s. He butted heads with Bill “Spaceman” Lee, fought Pedro Martinez (which both parties came away feeling ashamed of), and saw Bucky Dent crush Boston’s championship dreams in 1978. He was a mentor to Derek Jeter. Not a bad run!
The hardest part of writing this article was trying to decide which image to use. Zim can be seen on Google Images in uniform for the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Devil Rays, Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers, Washington Senators, Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants, and that probably wasn’t even all of the teams he was associated with over the years. There are pictures of Zim with such legends of the game as Ted Williams, Joe Torre, Pedro Martinez, Terry Francona, and Jim Leyland. Ultimately, I went with the classic picture of Zim wearing an army helmet in the Yankees dugout because I remember him best from the Yankee years, and because it’s a funny picture.
Don Zimmer lived the dream. Every kid thinks about playing in Major League Baseball at some point in their life, but of the few that get their, even fewer get to stay their. Zim got to be part of baseball for life, and baseball was better for it.