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Thursday, June 5, 2014

RIP DON ZIMMER - He'll always be a Bum (that's a compliment)

Classy guy, that Pedro
Don Zimmer passed away. Most folks know Zim from his days as a Yankees coach under Joe Torre as a Bug-eyed, giant wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek. And for Pedro Martinez tossing him to the ground during a Yankees – Red Sox brawl (I never liked Martinez). But Zimmer began his career as a member of 'Dem Bums' - those beloved Dodgers of Brooklyn.

Zimmer was a power hitting shortstop who signed with the Dodgers at 18. In 1953, twenty-two years old and just one step away from the majors, Zimmer was hit in the head with a pitch while playing for the AAA St. Paul Millers. It was thirteen days before he regained total consciousness and they had drilled holes in his head to relieve the swelling. It looked like his career was done.

But Zimmer was a fighter and he actually worked his way up to Brooklyn late in the 1954 season. Jackie Robinson, whose legs were starting to give out, was moved to third base and rookie Jim Gilliam took over at second base for the 1955 season. Zimmer made the team out of spring training and appeared in 88 games, playing at both second and third. He hit 15 homers as the team's power threat off of the bench. Brooklyn brought home its only World Series title in 1955. 1955 was Next Year (if you don’t get that reference, please go read a book on the history of the Dodgers. Or even the Yankees).

Check out the guns on
young Zim!
The next season, he took a pitch to the face, shattering his cheekbone. But Zimmer recovered and moved west with the Dodgers in 1958. He spent 12 seasons in the majors, playing with five different teams. He managed 13 years for three different teams (plus he was an interim manager for the Yankees once). He helmed the Red Sox when Bucky Dent went deep on Mike Torrez in the 1978 playoff game. And he led the hapless Cubs to the 1989 NL Championship Series (losing to the Giants in 5 games).
His long tenure with the Yankees came to an end because he was tired of seeing how George Steinbrenner treated people. He was working as special assistant with the Tampa Bay Rays at the time of his death.

I heard this morning that Zimmer never earned a paycheck for anything not related to baseball. Meaning he spent his entire working life as part of the game. That's pretty cool.
If you're listening to comments about Zimmer on sports radio today, there's nary a bad word said about the man. RIP Zim!

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