Lovable Baseball Lifer Don Zimmer Passes Away at 83

Don Zimmer

You won’t find many people around Major League Baseball as universally liked and respected as Don Zimmer. There are tons of better players and many better managers, but few better people.

Sadly, after gracing the game of baseball with his presence for 66 years, Zimmer passed away yesterday, June 4, at the age of 83.

As a player, Zimmer broke into the majors as an infielder with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, winning two World Series with the franchise before going on to play for the Cubs, Mets, Reds and, finally, the Senators. After his playing days were over Zimmer served as a manager for 13 seasons with the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, and Cubs until 1991. Then he served as a bench coach for the Red Sox and Rockies before being hired as a coach by Yankees manager Joe Torre in 1996.

It was with the Yankees that Zimmer really became famous. He helped cultivate stars like Derek Jeter and was a major part of the most recent Yankees dynasty that won four rings in five years between 1996 and 2000.

And of course, who could forget the showdown with Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS or the moving, tearful apology Zimmer gave afterward:

Zimmer would probably rather not be remembered for something he was embarrassed about. But of course, that’s exactly why people loved him—because he was so remorseful, because he took his job that seriously, and because he respected the game that much.

Since 2004, Zimmer has served as a “senior adviser” to the Tampa Bay Rays. In April he underwent seven hours of heart surgery that put him in a rehabilitation center, and he passed away on Wednesday at a hospital in Dunedin, Florida. For most of the season, Rays third base coach Tom Foley has worn Zimmer’s No. 66 Rays jersey as a tribute, and the team hung a huge “ZIM” banner in Tropicana Field.

During last night’s game against the Marlins, the team’s broadcasters were pretty emotional when breaking the sad news:

However, Zimmer’s loss won’t just be felt in the Rays organization. He gave 66 years of his life to the game and made an impact on countless individuals. Here was what many of them had to say:

RIP, Don Zimmer.


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