Baseball Icon Don Zimmer Passes Away At Age 83
66 Years In Professional Baseball, The Last 11 With Rays
Don Zimmer was born on Januayr 17, 1931 in Cincinnati Ohio and after graduating Western Hills High School began his baseball career by signing a amateur contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.
After just five season in the minor leagues he was called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 and made the move with the team out to Los Angeles before being traded to the Chicago Cubs for Lee Handley, Johnny Goryl, Ron Perranoski, and $25,00o cash.
In 1963 the Reds shipped him back to Los Angeles in exchange for Scott Breeden. Midway through the 1963 season he was purchased by the Washington Senators where he finished his career from 1963 to 1965.
In his 12 major league seasons he appeared in 1095 games and posted a triple slash line of .235/.290/.372 and made the All-Star team in 1961.
It was an unfortunate incident involving Zimmer that led to Major League Baseball adopting the use of batting helmets. On July 7, 1953 he was hit in the head on a pitch delivered by Jim Kirk. The result was a brain injury that put Zimmer in a coma for two weeks.
His playing career also was marked by some significant moments. He was on the only Brooklyn Dodgers team that won a World Series (1955), he was on the original New York Mets squad (1962), and he was the manager of the Red Sox in 1978 when Bucky Dent had his memorable moment (1978).
Despite not finding a team stateside he wasn’t ready to hang up the spikes. He spent the 1966 season playing for the Toei Flying Tigers of the Japanese Pacific League playing in 87 games and hitting just .182 (37 for 203).
Returning to the US after a disappointing season in Japan he took a job with the Reds organization as a minor league manager spending three seasons managing between their Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. He spent the 1969 season managing the Cubs Class A affiliate Key West squad before departing to the Padres organization in 1970 managing their Triple A squad in 1970.
He was named a coach for the Montreal Expos in 1971 and finally got a job managing in the major leagues taking over the San Diego Padres in 1972 and 1973 posting a 114-190 record.
He took over the Boston Red Sox in 1976 and remained their manager until 1982. He had a winning percentage of .575 (411-304) with the Red Sox.
He took over the Texas Rangers in 1981-1982 and posted a record of 95-106. He finished his tenure as a manager guiding the Chicago Cubs from 1988 – 1991 posting a 265-208 record.
His managerial career spanned 13 years and he had an overall winning percentage of .508 (885-858).
He has spent the past 11 seasons as a special senior adviser for the Rays.
For a more personal look at Zimmer and his time with the Rays please read Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times piece Rays adviser Don Zimmer, widely seen as a baseball treasure, dies