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The best Don Zimmer profile you’ll ever read

Jun 5, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT

don zimmer getty Getty Images

Hat tip to Jay Jaffe, who tweeted this out a bit ago. It’s from Scott Raab at Esquire from 2001. He spent a couple of days with Zimmer at his home near Tampa during the 2000-01 offseason and got a true taste of the man.

The thing about Zimmer: he became something of a mascot in his later years in the mind of many people, but he was never that. Sure, he was colorful, but that whole “sweet old funny Zimmer” thing is only part of the story. He was a sure-thing shortstop prospect until he had two vicious beanings that derailed his career before it really got going. He was often thought of as a bit of a comedian when he payed, but was a gruff figure as a manager. Then the latter years as coach.

But as a person, he sounds like someone you just want to be around. A sharp guy with sharp humor but something simmering underneath that only people with true character have:

“I’m a bench coach,” Zim says. “Thirty years ago, there was no such thing–you were a coach. Now they got a title for a bench coach, which is a joke. People say, What is the job of a bench coach? I say, Very simple–I sit next to Torre on the bench. When he plays hit-and-run that works, I say, ‘Nice goin’, Skipper,’ and if it doesn’t work, I go down to the other end of the bench, get a drink, and get out of his way. We only got one manager. I don’t want no credit for doin’ anything. I sit next to Joe like a bump on a log–that’s the way I leave it.”

The truth is this: Joe Torre doesn’t make a move without asking Zimmer what he thinks.

Just a fantastic story that, even 13 years before the subject’s death, serves as a wonderful remembrance.

  1. Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    I truly believe that Zimmer was the reason Torre was so successful in New York….like you said, everything Torre did, I’m pretty sure he ran by Zimmer first (if Zimmer didn’t suggest it outright to start)…

  2. Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Zimmer’s rant about Piazza in that piece is epic….and freakin awesome

  3. Jack Marshall - Jun 5, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    I feel bad about it, and I’m sure he was the salt of the earth, but just as I’ll shed no tear when Grady Little goes to his reward, I can’t forgive Zimmer for his stubborn, biased, small-minded, incompetent management of the Red Sox teams in 1977 and especially ’78. Ask Bernie Carbo, Bill Lee and Butch Hobson what kind of a manager he was.

    • jeffbbf - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      Seems like an odd post. I never heard a bad word about Zimmer during ’77. Carbo was sold off in 78 before the choke, Bill Lee wasn’t called Spaceman for no reason (he walked off the team for a bit due to the Carbo sale, no?), and Butch Hobson was the worst-fielding 3bman in 60 years. I’m not sure what any of that had to do with Zimmer, but the manager is always going to take the heat when a team collapses.

      • Rich Stowe - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:35 PM

        and Guidry went 25-8 for the Yankees in 78 and had one of the best individual seasons ever – it wasn’t all on the Red Sox for collapsing…the Yankees played out of their minds in the 2nd half…

    • raysfan1 - Jun 5, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      If you are going to blame him for the “collapse,” then you also have to credit him for how the Sox played up until then. He was also part of the coaching staff for the Red Sox’ 1975 AL pennant winner.

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