Former Major League baseball player, manager and coach Don Zimmer passed away Wednesday from surgical complications, he was 83 years old. Best known for his twelve year career in the Major Leagues where he excelled as a utility infielder. After his playing days, he became a manager and a baseball coach for eleven different teams. Zimmer worked with the Tampa Bay Rays as a coach and advisor for the past ten years up until his passing.
Born on January 17, 1931 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Don Zimmer’s life revolved around the national pastime. He worked his way up through the different levels of baseball by starting out in the Pony Leagues up to the AAA minor league team the St. Paul Saints. In 1953 his career was almost cut short due to an incident on the field when he was beaned with a pitch. The injury left him unconscious and he nearly died. Because of this accident, batting helmets became the norm in baseball. Zimmer recovered and continued to play with the Saints until being called up in 1954 by the Brooklyn Dodgers.
During his Major League career, Zimmer won two World Series rings with the Dodgers. He also played in the Mexican Winter Leagues and one season with the Toei Flyers of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. When his playing days were over, Zimmer made the transition to coach and manager by working his way from the minors to the majors. He managed several teams for brief stints (San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers) and for more than a season with the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs.
In the twilight of his career, Zimmer was a coach for the New York Yankees during their World Series run of the late 90’s. He was involved in a bench clearing brawl during the 2003 ALCS and was “knocked” to the ground by Red Sox Pedro Martinez (He was shocked to see the elderly Zimmer charge him so he just wrestled him to the ground). The next season he joined the Tampa Bay Rays as a coach & “Senior Advisor” and remained with the franchise until he died. Zimmer also wrote two books about his life in baseball and remained married to his high school sweetheart Jean (they said their vows on August 15, 1951 at home plate before a night game) until his passing.
Don Zimmer was one of the last characters of “classic” baseball. Some people call him the “Forrest Gump” of the Major Leagues due to his many situations and hall of fame players he was involved in. He was a unique individual whose career as a coach left a mark upon many big leaguers and he’ll surely be missed.
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