Very sad news to report tonight, as former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer has passed away at age 83. WTSP in Tampa was the first to bring it to the baseball world's attention:
Zim was such a beloved part of that 1996-2003 Yankees dynasty that it hurts to write this. He won four World Series rings and six AL pennants during his time as coach and always seemed like such a fun guy who everyone in the clubhouse looked up to and revered.
Prior to his time as a Yankees coach, Zimmer was one of the last Brooklyn Dodgers still alive, as he was once a hotshot shortstop prospect for Brooklyn, and he was a member of the 1955 World Series champion Dodgers that finally managed to beat the Yankees in the Fall Classic. Zimmer also won a second World Series ring as a player out west when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and won the '59 Fall Classic over the Chicago White Sox. Zimmer was soon traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he had two best years from 1960-61, when he made the All-Star team for the only time in his career and hit 41 doubles, 11 triples, and 19 homers over those two seasons. Zimmer was one of the original Mets in the franchise's first season in '62, then retired a few years later after a '66 campaign spent in Japan with the Toei Flyers to pursue a career in coaching.
To say that "Zim" had a long career as a coach is an understatement. He was active in some capacity every year from 1967-2014, an incredible span of 47 years. That added with his time as a player gave him 66 years in the game at the time of his death. Zimmer coached with eight different teams and also appeared on the coaching staff for the 1975 AL champion Boston Red Sox. He later managed that team and was on the other side of Bucky Dent's eventual division-winning homer in the '78 AL East playoff. Zimmer found more success as manager of the Cubs in '89, when they won the NL East title, though they ultimately fell to the Giants in the NLCS. Zimmer also spent a couple years managing the San Diego Padres (his first MLB skipper job in '71) and the Texas Rangers.
Zimmer came to the Yankees after roughly three season with the expansion Colorado Rockies. He had quit his job midway through the '95 season, but friend George Steinbrenner, who had hired him as a coach twice before, convinced him to reconsider retirement and join new skipper Joe Torre on the bench in '96. Although Torre and Zimmer did not have much experience working together, it turned out to be a great combination. Furthermore, the teams they had to coach were pretty damn good, and they of course won four World Series titles in the next five years, including three in a row from 1998-2000.
When Torre had to miss the first month or so of the '99 campaign recovering from prostate cancer treatment, Zimmer manager the team in his stead and held the fort at 21-15. The stress of managing full-time nearly made him quit the job, but Torre got him to stay upon his return. The longer he coached for the Yankees though, the more strained his relationship became with his former friend Steinbrenner. After the '03 season (when he infamously got into a fight with Pedro Martinez during the ALCS), Zimmer quit, citing Steinbrenner as the reason. He spent the last 10 years of his life as a senior adviser for the Tampa Bay Rays. Zimmer recently had heart surgery, and it seems like he just wasn't able to recover. Yankees fans will remember him fondly and miss him dearly.
Pinstripe Alley's thoughts go out to Zim's family during this time. Rest in peace, Zim.
Today I lost my "Pops" the greatest grandfather anyone could ever ask for. Don Zimmer lived an amazing baseball life pic.twitter.com/7NiAdtMpl5— Beau Zimmer (@Zimm10) June 5, 2014
I'll never forget going to the dugout early just to hear your stories, God bless you Don Zimmer... you will be missed— Paul O'Neill (@PaulONeillYES) June 5, 2014