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Everyone can claim Don Zimmer as their own

Jun 5, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

source: AP

I saw this tweet this morning and my first impression was to say, “oh, really?”


My dubiousness was a function of my age, though, as I came to know who Don Zimmer was when he managed the Red Sox and then the Rangers and I collected baseball cards of him on the Dodgers, so in my mind those are the teams with which I identify him. But if you add up all of his years as an everyday coach, He spent more time in a Yankees uniform than any other. Ten seasons over two distinct coaching stints and 36 games as a fill-in manager for Joe Torre one year. So maybe he is “forever a Yankee.”

Except he spent more seasons with the Rays as an advisor/instructor: 11. So maybe he’s forever a Ray?

Of course his most famous years probably came as the Red Sox’ manager. But man, he had nine seasons in a Cubs uniform and that was the only team for which he served as a player, manager and coach, so maybe he’s a Cub? But wait, the bulk of his playing career as a Dodger and stands as the last person to be a regular, active-duty uniformed baseball person who was a Brooklyn Dodger, and that has to count for something.

He also did time with the Senators, Mets, Reds, Padres, Rangers, Expos, Rockies and Giants. That’s what I cobbled together from Wikipedia and Baseball-Reference, anyway. I may be missing one in there someplace. As it stands: thirteen teams and significant achievements and memories for just about all of them.

A lot of people get called “a real baseball man” or “a good baseball man,” but I think it’s safe to say no one can lay claim to that title more than Don Zimmer. Every team he played for, managed, coached or advised can claim him. And I think even teams he never played for, managed, coached or advised can too.

  1. 18thstreet - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    As a Red Sox fan, I think it is completely appropriate for the Yankees to claim him. He helped the Yankees win with 1978 World Series.

    • raysfan1 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      As a Red Sox fan, you should realize he was part of your favorite team getting to the 1975 WS and that your favorite team might well not have played well enough to tie the Yankees in 1978. Blaming him for “Bucky ‘effin’ Dent” is pretty silly.

    • Detroit Michael - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      If you can’t say something nice about someone whose death was just announced, don’t say anything at all.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        You’re right. I should have kept it to myself.

    • narragansett55 - Jun 5, 2014 at 4:28 PM

      Are you Bill Lee?

      • 18thstreet - Jun 5, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        I met that guy once at a showing of a documentary about his life. I can see why they didn’t get along. I can’t say I liked Lee all that much.

  2. Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Zimmer was the man…I do believe it was knowledge and experience that helped Torre be the “great manager” he was…it’s no coincidence that the Yankees with Torre at the helm without Zimmer on the bench did not win the World Series…it was only with Zimmer next to Torre did they win….

    RIP Mr. Zimmer….no one in history can say the met Babe Ruth, played alongside Jackie Robinson, was managed by Casey Stengel, was present for Fisk and Dent’s HRs, as well be present for the Pine Tar Incident, 3 Yankees perfect games, manage Derek Jeter and try to fight Pedro Martinez while well into his 70s..what a storied career…

    • largebill - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      I’ve heard the “met Babe Ruth” claim cited in a couple places. However, none of the articles elaborated on how that took place. I’m not necessarily disputing whether it happened or not, but Ruth died in 1948 when Zim was a 17 year old high school player in Cincinnati. I doubt Ruth spent much time in Cincinnati. Wonder what the specifics were of his meeting Ruth.

      • Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        there is a picture of the meeting I believe…and he did meet him when he was 17

      • Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:48 AM

        at least based on all the stories I’ve heard…I’m looking deeper to find the specifics

        based on what I’ve found so far, the meeting happened in 1947

      • Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        He once told a story of playing for Cincinnati’s American Legion team in high school and taking a trip to California for the national championship. Zim’s team won and he was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

        At the ceremony afterward, Zimmer got to meet Babe Ruth, who autographed a baseball for the starstruck teenager.

      • Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:54 AM

        so it appears the meeting Babe Ruth story originated with Zimmer himself….however, with Zimmer you never know – it could have happened

        it makes a great story, so I say we just roll with it

  3. robynfmiller - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    my friend’s sister is losing 10 pounds every 2 weeks. She has been over weight but last month she started to take these new supplements and she has lost 40 pounds so far. take a look at the site here:—–>>

    • chinahand11 - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:33 AM

      Holy Bat poop Robyn! Is your friend’s sister hot? Does she have a lot of skin hanging from her arms? Can we see some bikini pics?

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      On behalf of all my HBT brethren I ask that you delete your account then immediately punch yourself in the face.

      • hojo20 - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        Cut Robyn some slack. I need to shed a few pounds and will try anything.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:39 PM

        You? I have gained 30 lbs in the last 6 Months.
        I had to remove myself from my customary position at 2nd base last night. It is to the point where I simply can not (will not) field the ball unless it’s hit right at me! Of course…with that extra 30 lbs. it feels like I have cement in my cleats. Terrible. I gotta do something.

    • scorpiox1960 - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      robyn – Please let me know your e-mail. I would like to send you my credit card info and SSN# to place an order.

    • 6stn - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:57 PM

      Meth Lab Technician?

  4. dlf9 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    Yep, everyone can claim Zimmer even, in a second hand sense me.

    Two decades ago, as a very young attorney, I was assigned the task of representing a nursing home in an action before a state administrative agency. I spent a lot of time with Alan Koch, the in-house counsel employed by the nursing home talking about the case, his views of the law, my background and, eventually, my baseball obsessions. Well, after going on and on for several weeks, one of the more senior attorneys at my firm informed me that my client was a former major leaguer who pitched for the Tigers and Senators in the 60s before going to law school.

    Anyway, when prodded, Alan told wonderful, playfull stories of his time playing professionally. Some of the best were of his teammate Don Zimmer. Zim was the team clown and would do things like hide in the overhead luggage bins on the plane and jump out to startle people. Alan appeared to be surprised that Zim had become the beloved senior figure that he was by the early 90s instead of the joker he had been three decades earlier or even the gruff almost hostile figure he was as a manager in the 70s and (pre-Cubs) 80s.

    So yes, Don Zimmer belongs not just to the Yankees, but to all of baseball, even to me.

    • padraighansen - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:01 PM

      Love that story – seriously. Thanks for sharing it.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Great post 9! Thanks for sharing the story.

  5. nbjays - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Zim belonged to no team and every team. Most of all, he belonged to baseball and its fans, and, in a way, we all belonged to him. Baseball is a poorer sport today for having lost Don Zimmer, but it is a vastly richer sport for having had him for as long as it did.

    I, for one, am looking forward to the story that Joe Posnanski is probably working on right now, but if you want to read a heartfelt tribute, go read Marty Noble’s piece over at

    RIP Popeye!

  6. mbtampa - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    …except that time when he was a member of the ’55 Brooklyn Dodgers, of course.

  7. ditto65 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    Here’s an idea:

    He is forever a Yankee. And A Red Sock. And a Cub. And a Dodger. And a Ray…

    It does not, at least to me, need to be exclusive.

  8. stoutfiles - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    It’s a shame though that most people remember him for his one slip-up, running at Pedro Martinez and getting tossed aside.

    • Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:00 AM

      if that’s what most people remember him for, they’re clearly not baseball fans…

  9. broncosbrowns - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    I had the privelage of meeting Don Zimmer in 1995 when he was at a Colorado Rockies event. He was a very nice person. I look forward to sitting down with him in heaven.

  10. arbruins - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    robynfmiller, your friends sister is still a fat pig.

    Rest in peace Mr Zimmer.

    • narragansett55 - Jun 5, 2014 at 4:26 PM

      But boy can she cook!

  11. thepopeofchilitown444 - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Rest in peace, Don Zimmer. Forever Baseball’s./


  12. scorpiox1960 - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Well since he was a Yankee, he gets into Monument Park, right?

  13. jimeejohnson - Jun 5, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    Remember when that fake tough guy Pedro Martinez put Don Zimmer down? You know, the Pedro who continually beaned batters knowing he didn’t have to go to bat himself. Love to run into Pedro and plant him like the tulip he always has been.

    • narragansett55 - Jun 5, 2014 at 4:29 PM

      When you think of someone who is a “baseball man” you think of Don Zimmer. Thank you for all your contributions to the game of baseball, Mr. Zimmer. God bless you and rest in peace.

    • odorlessopie - Jun 5, 2014 at 6:09 PM

      Settle down Beavis. Fun fact: the only time Pedro led the league in HBP was when he was in the NL.

  14. pastabelly - Jun 6, 2014 at 3:10 AM

    Zimmer apologized for charging at Pedro. He should be excused for that lunatic moment. Old baseball coaches have no business charging at players, but Zimmer was a character. Yes, he is very tied to the NYY 19-18 chant on both sides. I suppose NY, Tampa, Bill Lee, and Bernie Carbo can have him.

  15. stac266 - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    I got to meet him during spring trainng in the early 90s. I asked him to sign a 1959 Topps card, (which I still have), and he chuckled and said “God, I always hated that picture”. Trivial I know, but him and Bob Feller were two very down to earth baseball guys that I will always remember meeting.

  16. sdelmonte - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    He was an Original Met. For 14 games. How bad did you have to be to last 14 games with the ’62 Mets? 4 hits in 52 ABs. He might have made it in Brooklyn and the Bronx, but Queens eluded him.

    RIP, Mr, Zimmer.

  17. provguard - Jun 7, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Wow!!! Very good article Mr Calcaterra. It really made me think about Zimmer. He has always been around; as the teams were a little different at times, but being a nice guy was always there.

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