Last night came the news that Don Zimmer had passed away at the age of 83. Zimmer was a true baseball lifer, he was around the game so long and in so many capacities that individual memories of the man vary greatly by geography and age group. Although Don was an original Met, and before that a member of the “Boys of Summer” Dodger teams, those parts of his career do not resonate with me. I wasn’t around for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Zimmer passed too quickly though the Polo Grounds in 1962 for me to associate him much with that team.
My strongest memories of Zimmer revolve around the Yankees, in particular the Yankee vs. Red Sox rivalry. Don had the misfortune of being the Red Sox manager in 1978, a fantastic Boston team that won 99 games but is only remembered for losing a 14 game lead on the Yankees and the one-game “Bucky Dent” playoff game. Years later, of course, Zimmer ended up seated next to Joe Torre on the Yankees bench as those two franchises continued to fight over the AL East annually. Once, famously, the fighting for Zimmer became literal with Pedro Martinez.
Of course there was much more to his life than that. Like Ralph Kiner I only observed him from afar, but I got the impression he was mostly enjoying it all. I hope that is true, as fans certainly enjoyed watching him as a player, manager, and coach for over 50 years.
Rest in Peace.