Kevin Aherne (@KAherne17)
His statistics as a player never jumped off the page, and a lot of casual fans probably couldn't tell you much about his role in the game--but when you say the name Don Zimmer, everybody knows that he was a baseball legend.
Don Zimmer passed away on Wednesday at a medical rehabilitation center in Dunedin, Florida where he was recovering from heart surgery. He was 83 years old.
He was a player, manager, coach, and executive in a career that spanned 66 years. As a player, he played for six Major League teams--beginning with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954--in a career lasting 12 seasons. He was a utility infielder who never posted a batting average of higher than .262 in a season, and never hit more than 17 home runs (both 1958). Over his career he hit .235, with 91 home runs and 352 RBI.
After his playing career ended, Zimmer spent several years as a minor league manager and coach in the Indians and Padres systems. He made a return to the Big Leagues in 1971 as the third base coach for the Montreal Expos, then in the same role in 1972 with the San Diego Padres, where he became the team's Manager just 11 games into the season.
Zimmer went on to Manage for four teams--Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, and Cubs--over 14 seasons. In 1,714 career games at the helm, he posted a record of 885-858. In 1989 Zimmer was named NL Manager of the Year after leading the Cubs to a division title.
In between managerial stints and after his last season as Cubs Manager in 1991, Zimmer served on the coaching staffs for the Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Rockies, and Rays. Most recelntly, until the time of his death, Zimmer was a senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays. Of note, he was the last Brooklyn Dodger player to still remain involved with Major League Baseball.
Don Zimmer leaves behind his wife of 63 years, Carol Jean. They married in 1951 at home plate of Dunn Field in Elmira, NY where he was a player for the Single-A Elmira Pioneers. In his career, Zimmer played in two All-Star Games, earned six World Series rings, and earned the respect of everyone who loves the game of baseball.
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