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Don Zimmer

November 18, 2010

by William Szczepanek

1956 Topps Don Zimmer #099The best term to describe Don Zimmer as a former player is scrappy.  He had to be scrappy to last 12 seasons with a lifetime batting average of .235.  He was an excellent fielder as displayed in this 1956 Topps #099 card and was an one-time All Star in 1961 when he played for the Cubs.

Don Zimmer played for a great team, the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers. Zimmer almost didn't make it to the Major Leagues. He stole home 10 times one year in the minors. He nearly died after being hit in the temple by a pitch while in the minors at St. Paul in 1953 at the age of 22. He was unconscious for 13 days.  Holes were drilled in his head to relieve the pressure caused by the swelling. This didn't stop him. He recovered. He suffered another beaning in the Majors by Hal Jeffcoat of the Redlegs in 1956 when a fastball broke his cheekbone.

Don Zimmer Johnny LoganHe played for the Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Reds and Senators before ending his playing career in Japan in 1966. After successful work with the Dodgers he was traded to the Cubs to be their regular third baseman. At one point Zimmer was moved to second to temporarily relieve Jerry Kindall, a 9-year major leaguer with a lower BA than Zimmer.  He never made it back to third base in Chicago after a guy named Ron Santo took his place. Santo has high praise for Zimmer as a player and manager.

As a Manager

Overall, Zimmer won 906 Major League games with a .508 winning percentage as a manager for the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs and Yankees. he was Manager of the Year in 1989 for the Cubs
He has been roundly criticized as a manager.  He performed his job in a seat of the pants fashion, often ignoring statistical probability and going with his gut. He often played his players too regularly, something that was common when he played. He would surprise the opposition when they least expected it, such as with a safety squeeze or hit and run. He did not play by the book, so it was more difficult to use the book and probabilities against him.

Don Zimmer Pedro MartinezIn 2003, Zimmer again showed his guts, but not necessarily brains, when he charged out of the dugout after Pedro Martinez during a playoff brawl. Martinez threw him to the ground, which was probably a wise move.  It got Zimmer out of the action. Martinez could have done a lot worse to Zimmer. I don't think either player can be faulted for their actions.

Zimmer was totally surprised recently when at the age of 79 he was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

Zimmer was the last of the Brooklyn Dodgers still on the baseball field in some capacity.

 

 

You can check out Zimmer's player stats and manager stats at Baseball-Reference.com.

 

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