Former Chicago Cubs player and manager Don Zimmer, who spent 66 years involved in the game of baseball, died at the age of 83, his son, Tom, informed the Tampa Bay Times.
Zimmer, known by many as “Popeye” for his chubby cheeks, was by all means a baseball lifer. He came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. That was the beginning of one of the great baseball journeys containing more stories than we can fit.
As a player, Zimmer played for the Dodgers (Brooklyn and Los Angeles), Cubs, Reds, Mets, and Senators. His .235 career average is not representative of how important he was to baseball.
"“What you lack in talent can be made up with desire, hustle and giving 110 percent all the time,” he once said."
He would manage for 13 seasons, compiling an 885-858 record (.508) with Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, and Cubs. In 1970 he had the Red Sox on the cusp of a championship before things fell apart in the end of the season.
He led the Cubs to the National League East title in 1989, when they were expected to finish last and while he was not able to get the two franchises over the hump, he did however collect six World Series rings (four as a coach with the Yankees and two as a player for Dodgers).
“I got more out of the game than I deserved,” –Don Zimmer
His personality was unpredictable, and he managed with the same flair. The sentiment felt across all of baseball is the same. A great man, whose time spanned over eight decades and gave all he could to a game, and was humble all the way to the end.
I was 10 years old in 1989. I followed that team like any baseball obsessed kid, especially a Cubs fan would. I can remember on more than one occasion that little round man charging onto the field to argue a call. He had a team loaded with inexperienced rookies and took them to the playoffs.
The personalities on the team were a reflection of Zimmer in my mind. “The Boys of Zimmer” is a phrase I always will think of as that team always is in the forefront of my memory.
He is survived by his wife, “Soot”, his son Thomas, his daughter Donna, and four grandchildren.