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Don Zimmer

Don Zimmer

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Donald William "Popeye" Zimmer (born January 17, 1931, in Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located to north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The population within city limits is 296,943 according to the 2010 census, making it Ohio's...

) is a former infielder
Infielder
An infielder is a baseball player stationed at one of four defensive "infield" positions on the baseball field.-Standard arrangement of positions:In a game of baseball, two teams of nine players take turns playing offensive and defensive roles...

, manager
Manager (baseball)
In baseball, the field manager is an individual who is responsible for matters of team strategy on the field and team leadership. Managers are typically assisted by between one and six assistant coaches, whose responsibilities are specialized...

, and coach in Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

, currently serving as a senior advisor to the Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are a Major League Baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays are a member of the Eastern Division of MLB's American League. Since their inception in , the club has played at Tropicana Field...

 baseball organization. In December 2008, he suffered a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

, causing loss of speech for a week.

Playing career


Zimmer, nicknamed "Zim" and sometimes "Popeye
Popeye
Popeye the Sailor is a cartoon fictional character created by Elzie Crisler Segar, who has appeared in comic strips and animated cartoons in the cinema as well as on television. He first appeared in the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929...

" because of his facial resemblance to the cartoon
Cartoon
A cartoon is a form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art. While the specific definition has changed over time, modern usage refers to a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic drawing or painting intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or to the artistic style of such works...

 character, began his career in 1949 at Cambridge
Cambridge, Maryland
Cambridge is a city in Dorchester County, Maryland, United States. The population was 12,326 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Dorchester County and the county's largest municipality...

 of the (Maryland) Eastern Shore League
Eastern Shore Baseball League
The Eastern Shore Baseball League was a Class D minor league baseball league that operated on the Delmarva Peninsula for parts of three different decades. The league's first season was in 1922 and the last was in 1949, although the years were not consecutive, and featured teams from Maryland,...

. He then played in Hornell, New York
Hornell, New York
Hornell is a city in Steuben County, New York, United States. The population was 9,019 at the 2000 census. The city is named after the Hornell family, early settlers. Its current population has not yet been released by the new census....

, Elmira, New York
Elmira, New York
Elmira is a city in Chemung County, New York, USA. It is the principal city of the 'Elmira, New York Metropolitan Statistical Area' which encompasses Chemung County, New York. The population was 29,200 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Chemung County.The City of Elmira is located in...

, Mobile, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

, and finally St. Paul, Minnesota before making it to the Major Leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are a professional baseball team based in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers are members of Major League Baseball's National League West Division. Established in 1883, the team originated in Brooklyn, New York, where it was known by a number of nicknames before becoming...

 in 1954. At home plate before an Elmira night game in 1951 Zimmer married Soot (Jean), the girl he started dating in 10th grade. Beginning in 1954, his career included 12 seasons in the big leagues. He was a utility infielder with a great team, the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers, and with the 1962 New York Mets
New York Mets
The New York Mets are a professional baseball team based in the borough of Queens in New York City, New York. They belong to Major League Baseball's National League East Division. One of baseball's first expansion teams, the Mets were founded in 1962 to replace New York's departed National League...

, who lost a record 120 games. Zimmer's rise to the Major Leagues was amazing considering he nearly died after being hit with a pitch in the temple while with St. Paul in . He was not fully conscious for 13 days, during which holes were drilled in his skull to relieve the pressure of swelling. His vision was blurred, he could neither walk nor talk and his weight plunged from 170 to 124. He was told he was finished at 22. He was beaned again in 1956 when a Cincinnati Reds fastball broke his cheekbone, but he persevered. Because of these beanings, it has been widely reported that he had a surgically implanted steel plate in his head. This rumor is false, although the holes drilled in the surgeries following the 1953 beanball were later filled with four tantalum metal corkscrew-shaped "buttons."

In the major leagues, Zimmer remained with the Los Angeles Dodgers after their move west in , then playing for the Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are a professional baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League. They are one of two Major League clubs based in Chicago . The Cubs are also one of the two remaining charter members of the National...

, the first New York Mets
New York Mets
The New York Mets are a professional baseball team based in the borough of Queens in New York City, New York. They belong to Major League Baseball's National League East Division. One of baseball's first expansion teams, the Mets were founded in 1962 to replace New York's departed National League...

 team in , and the Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds are a Major League Baseball team based in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are members of the National League Central Division. The club was established in 1882 as a charter member of the American Association and joined the National League in 1890....

; he returned briefly to the Dodgers in , before finishing his career with the Washington Senators
Texas Rangers (baseball)
The Texas Rangers are a professional baseball team in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, based in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers are a member of the Western Division of Major League Baseball's American League, and are the reigning A.L. Western Division and A.L. Champions. Since , the Rangers have...

.

In 12 seasons, Zimmer played 1095 games
Games played
Games played is a statistic used in team sports to indicate the total number of games in which a player has participated ; the statistic is generally applied irrespective of whatever portion of the game is contested.-Baseball:In baseball, the statistic applies also to players who, prior to a game,...

. He compiled 773 hits
Hit (baseball)
In baseball statistics, a hit , also called a base hit, is credited to a batter when the batter safely reaches first base after hitting the ball into fair territory, without the benefit of an error or a fielder's choice....

, 91 home run
Home run
In baseball, a home run is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to reach home safely in one play without any errors being committed by the defensive team in the process...

s, 352 RBI
Run batted in
Runs batted in or RBIs is a statistic used in baseball and softball to credit a batter when the outcome of his at-bat results in a run being scored, except in certain situations such as when an error is made on the play. The first team to track RBI was the Buffalo Bisons.Common nicknames for an RBI...

, 45 stolen base
Stolen base
In baseball, a stolen base occurs when a baserunner successfully advances to the next base while the pitcher is delivering the ball to home plate...

s and a .235 batting average
Batting average
Batting average is a statistic in both cricket and baseball that measures the performance of cricket batsmen and baseball hitters. The two statistics are related in that baseball averages are directly descended from the concept of cricket averages.- Cricket :...

. He played in the World Series
World Series
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball, played between the American League and National League champions since 1903. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff and awarded the Commissioner's Trophy...

 with the Dodgers in 1955
1955 World Series
The 1955 World Series matched the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Yankees, with the Dodgers winning the Series in seven games to capture their first championship in franchise history. It would be the only Series the Dodgers won in Brooklyn . The last time the Brooklyn franchise won a World...

 and 1959
1959 World Series
The 1959 World Series featured the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers beating the American League champion Chicago White Sox, four games to two. It was the first pennant for the White Sox in 40 years . They would have to wait until 2005 to win another championship...

, and was selected to the National League
National League
The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known simply as the National League , is the older of two leagues constituting Major League Baseball, and the world's oldest extant professional team sports league. Founded on February 2, 1876, to replace the National Association of Professional...

 All-Star
Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game, also known as the "Midsummer Classic", is an annual baseball game between players from the National League and the American League, currently selected by a combination of fans, players, coaches, and managers...

 team in 1961.

Although he had a low batting average, Zimmer was a fine infielder, willing to fill in at third base
Third baseman
A third baseman, abbreviated 3B, is the player in baseball whose responsibility is to defend the area nearest to third base — the third of four bases a baserunner must touch in succession to score a run...

, shortstop
Shortstop
Shortstop, abbreviated SS, is the baseball fielding position between second and third base. Shortstop is often regarded as the most dynamic defensive position in baseball, because there are more right-handed hitters in baseball than left-handed hitters, and most hitters have a tendency to pull the...

, and second base
Second baseman
Second base, or 2B, is the second of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a base runner in order to score a run for that player's team. A second baseman is the baseball player guarding second base...

. He also caught
Catcher
Catcher is a position for a baseball or softball player. When a batter takes his turn to hit, the catcher crouches behind home plate, in front of the umpire, and receives the ball from the pitcher. This is a catcher's primary duty, but he is also called upon to master many other skills in order to...

 33 games in his final season with Washington in 1965. In , his last year as an active player, Zimmer played in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 with the Toei Flyers
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters
The are a Japanese professional baseball team based in Sapporo, Hokkaidō. They compete in the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball, playing the majority of their home games at the Sapporo Dome. The Fighters also host a select number of regional home games in cities across Hokkaidō,...

.

Coaching and managing career


After his retirement, Zimmer managed in the minor leagues
Minor league baseball
Minor league baseball is a hierarchy of professional baseball leagues in the Americas that compete at levels below Major League Baseball and provide opportunities for player development. All of the minor leagues are operated as independent businesses...

 until when he joined the Montreal Expos
Montreal Expos
The Montreal Expos were a Major League Baseball team located in Montreal, Quebec from 1969 through 2004, holding the first MLB franchise awarded outside the United States. After the 2004 season, MLB moved the Expos to Washington, D.C. and renamed them the Nationals.Named after the Expo 67 World's...

 as third base coach. He took a similar job with the San Diego Padres
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres are a Major League Baseball team based in San Diego, California. They play in the National League Western Division. Founded in 1969, the Padres have won the National League Pennant twice, in 1984 and 1998, losing in the World Series both times...

 in , but after only 11 games he was called on to replace Preston Gomez
Preston Gómez
Preston Gómez was a Cuban-born infielder, manager, coach and front-office official in Major League Baseball best known for managing three major league clubs: the San Diego Padres , Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs . He was born Pedro Gómez Martinez in Preston, Cuba, and was given his nickname in U.S...

 as manager.

After being fired by the Padres at the close of the campaign, he served as the third-base coach for the Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are a professional baseball team based in Boston, Massachusetts, and a member of Major League Baseball’s American League Eastern Division. Founded in as one of the American League's eight charter franchises, the Red Sox's home ballpark has been Fenway Park since . The "Red Sox"...

 for 2½ seasons. Working under skipper Darrell Johnson
Darrell Johnson
Darrell Dean Johnson was an American Major League Baseball catcher, coach, manager and scout.-Playing career:...

, Zimmer's tenure included a memorable event during Game 6 of the 1975 World Series
1975 World Series
The 1975 World Series was played between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds . It has been ranked by ESPN as the second-greatest World Series ever played...

. Boston had the bases loaded and none out in the home half of the ninth inning. The score was tied. A soft fly to left field was too shallow to score the winning run, but baserunner Denny Doyle
Denny Doyle
Robert Dennis Doyle is a former Major League Baseball second baseman who played for the Philadelphia Phillies , California Angels and Boston Red Sox . He batted left-handed and threw right-handed...

 thought Zimmer's shouts of "No! No! No!" were actually "Go! Go! Go!" He ran for home, and was thrown out at the plate. That play, and Dwight Evans
Dwight Evans
Dwight Michael Evans , nicknamed "Dewey", is an American former professional baseball right fielder and right-handed batter who played with the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles in Major League Baseball....

' brilliant catch off Joe Morgan
Joe Morgan
Joe Leonard Morgan is a former Major League Baseball second baseman who played for the Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, and Oakland Athletics from 1963 to 1984. He won two World Series championships with the Reds in 1975 and 1976 and was also named the...

 in extra innings, set up Carlton Fisk
Carlton Fisk
Carlton Ernest Fisk , nicknamed "Pudge" or "The Commander", is a former Major League Baseball catcher. During a 24-year baseball career, he played for both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox .Fisk was known by the nickname "Pudge" due to his 6'2", 220 lb frame...

's classic, game-winning home run.

The Red Sox never got on track under Johnson, and he was fired in July. Zimmer was named acting, then permanent, manager and he led them to a winning record, but a disappointing third-place finish in the AL East. The Red Sox would win more than 90 games in each of Zimmer's three full seasons (1977–79) as manager, only the second time they had pulled off this feat since World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. His team won 99 games, still the fourth-best record in franchise history.

However, he is best remembered among Red Sox fans
Red Sox Nation
Red Sox Nation refers to the fans of the Boston Red Sox. The phrase "Red Sox Nation" was first coined by Boston Globe feature writer Nathan Cobb in an October 20, 1986, article about split allegiances among fans in Connecticut during the 1986 World Series between the Red Sox and the New York...

 for the team's dramatic collapse during the 1978 season. After leading the American League East by as many as fourteen games, the Red Sox stumbled in August. By early September that lead was reduced to four games. That lead evaporated in a four-game series against the surging New York Yankees
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are a professional baseball team based in the The Bronx, New York. They compete in Major League Baseball in the American League's East Division...

 which is still known as "the Boston Massacre."

The Red Sox spent the last month of the season trading first place with the Yankees, forcing a one-game playoff on October 2. In that game, the Yankees took the lead permanently on a legendary home run by Bucky Dent
Bucky Dent
Russell Earl "Bucky" Dent , is a former American Major League Baseball player and manager. He earned two World Series rings as the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees in and , and was voted the World Series MVP in 1978...

 over the Fenway Park
Fenway Park
Fenway Park is a baseball park near Kenmore Square in Boston, Massachusetts. Located at 4 Yawkey Way, it has served as the home ballpark of the Boston Red Sox baseball club since it opened in 1912, and is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium currently in use. It is one of two "classic"...

 Green Monster
Green Monster
The Green Monster is a popular nickname for the thirty-seven foot , two-inch high left field wall at Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox baseball team...

.

During this stretch, Zimmer made several questionable personnel moves. He never got along with left-handed starting pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee
Bill Lee (left-handed pitcher)
William Francis Lee III , nicknamed "Spaceman", is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. He played for the Boston Red Sox from - and the Montreal Expos from -...

. As a matter of fact, his outright hatred of Lee (who had nicknamed Zimmer "The Gerbil.") ran so deep that he gave the starting assignment in the last game of the "Massacre" to rookie Bobby Sprowl
Bobby Sprowl
Robert John Sprowl is a retired professional baseball player who was a pitcher in Major League Baseball from 1978 to 1981. He played for the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros....

, who had only been called up from Triple-A Pawtucket
Pawtucket Red Sox
The Pawtucket Red Sox are the minor league baseball Triple-A affiliates of the Boston Red Sox and belong to the International League...

 a few days earlier. Reportedly, Carl Yastrzemski
Carl Yastrzemski
Carl Michael Yastrzemski is a former American Major League Baseball left fielder and first baseman. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. Yastrzemski played his entire 23-year baseball career with the Boston Red Sox . He was primarily a left fielder, with part of his later career...

 pleaded with Zimmer to start Lee, who, along with Luis Tiant
Luis Tiant
Luis Clemente Tiant Vega , born November 23, 1940 in Marianao, Cuba, , is a former right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Cleveland Indians , Minnesota Twins , Boston Red Sox , New York Yankees , Pittsburgh Pirates and California Angels...

, had dominated the Yankees during their careers. (Lee, for example, won 12 out of 17 decisions against the Yankees in 10 years with Boston.) Sprowl allowed four walks, one hit and one run in the first inning before being pulled and made only three more major-league starts.

Zimmer also penciled Fisk, the team's longtime starting catcher, into the lineup 154 times (out of a possible 162), a heavy workload for a catcher. Fisk complained of sore knees for much of this stretch and missed most of the next season with a sore arm. Finally, Zimmer kept third baseman Butch Hobson
Butch Hobson
Clell Lavern "Butch" Hobson, Jr. is a former third baseman and manager in Major League Baseball. Hobson played for the Boston Red Sox , California Angels and New York Yankees . He batted and threw right-handed.After retiring, he managed the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Boston Red Sox...

 in the lineup, even though Hobson's elbow miseries (he had floating bone chips which he frequently rearranged before coming to the plate) made it impossible for him to hit for power or average, or throw accurately. Hobson made error after error, until finally Zimmer called on Jack Brohamer
Jack Brohamer
John Anthony Brohamer, Jr. was a Major League Baseball second baseman from to . On September 24, , Brohamer hit for the cycle.-External links:...

 to replace him; with Brohamer at third, Boston won its last eight games of the regular season to force a tie with the Yankees, but the Red Sox lost the playoff game on home runs by Dent and Reggie Jackson.

Zimmer next managed the Texas Rangers
Texas Rangers (baseball)
The Texas Rangers are a professional baseball team in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, based in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers are a member of the Western Division of Major League Baseball's American League, and are the reigning A.L. Western Division and A.L. Champions. Since , the Rangers have...

. He spent less than two years in the job and his firing by owner Eddie Chiles
Eddie Chiles
Harrell Edmonds "Eddie" Chiles was the founder of the Western Company of North America and an owner of the Texas Rangers. He was also the paternal uncle of actress Lois Chiles....

 was different. Zimmer was fired on a Monday but asked to remain on through Wednesday's game before being replaced by Darrell Johnson
Darrell Johnson
Darrell Dean Johnson was an American Major League Baseball catcher, coach, manager and scout.-Playing career:...

. When asked for the reason he fired Zimmer, Chiles said it was 'something personal' but refused to elaborate further.

After Texas, Zimmer coached three stints with the Yankees, then coached for the San Francisco Giants
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are a Major League Baseball team based in San Francisco, California, playing in the National League West Division....

. In 1989, Zimmer managed the Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs are a professional baseball team located in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League. They are one of two Major League clubs based in Chicago . The Cubs are also one of the two remaining charter members of the National...

 to a division title and was named Manager of the Year. Later, he returning to Boston for one season as a coach (under manager Hobson) in . Overall, Zimmer won 906 Major League games as a manager.

Zimmer was on the first coaching staff of the expansion Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies are a Major League Baseball team based in Denver, Colorado. Established in 1991, they started play in 1993 and are in the West Division of the National League. The team is named after the Rocky Mountains...

 in 1993. In 1996, he joined the Yankees as their bench coach for their run of four World Series titles. In 1999, Zimmer filled in for Manager Joe Torre while Torre was recuperating from prostate cancer. Zimmer went 21-15 while guiding the Yankees during Torre's absence. This record however, is credited to Torre's managerial record. Many fans know him for his "brawl
Bench-clearing brawl
A bench-clearing brawl, sometimes known as a basebrawl or a rhubarb, is a form of ritualistic fighting that occurs in sports, most notably baseball and ice hockey, in which every player on both teams leave their dugouts, bullpens, or benches and charge the playing area in order to fight one...

" with Pedro Martínez
Pedro Martínez
Pedro Jaime Martínez is a retired Major League Baseball pitcher. He is an eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and 2004 World Series champion...

 in the 2003 American League Championship Series
2003 American League Championship Series
-Game 1:Wednesday, October 8, 2003 at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New YorkBacked by three home runs, Tim Wakefield shut the Bombers down in Game 1.-Game 2:Thursday, October 9, 2003 at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York...

. He was also once hit by a sharply hit foul ball batted by Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch
Chuck Knoblauch
Edward Charles "Chuck" Knoblauch is a retired Major League Baseball player. He played all or part of twelve seasons in the majors, from until , for the Minnesota Twins , New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals...

. The next game, Zimmer wore an army helmet with the word "ZIM" painted on the side and the Yankees logo stenciled on the front. Currently, Zimmer is a senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are a Major League Baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays are a member of the Eastern Division of MLB's American League. Since their inception in , the club has played at Tropicana Field...

. His role includes assisting the team during spring training
Spring training
In Major League Baseball, spring training is a series of practices and exhibition games preceding the start of the regular season. Spring training allows new players to try out for roster and position spots, and gives existing team players practice time prior to competitive play...

 and during home games. Every year, Zimmer increments his uniform number by one to match the number of years he has worked in baseball. During the 2010 season he wears #62, http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=lukas/070301, as seen on the Rays' official site.

Zimmer has written 2 books, Zim: A Baseball Life, and The Zen of Zim, that describe his life in baseball, as a player, manager
Manager (baseball)
In baseball, the field manager is an individual who is responsible for matters of team strategy on the field and team leadership. Managers are typically assisted by between one and six assistant coaches, whose responsibilities are specialized...

, and coach
Coach (sport)
In sports, a coach is an individual involved in the direction, instruction and training of the operations of a sports team or of individual sportspeople.-Staff:...

.

Since the season, Zimmer has been the last former Brooklyn Dodger still serving on the field in some capacity. Zimmer also serves as a member of the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping former Major League, Minor League, and Negro League players through financial and medical difficulties.

External links