Major League Baseball lost a legend Wednesday when Don Zimmer died at age 83. The news was met with sadness within the Boston Red Sox family and across the league.
Zimmer, who spent 66 years in MLB as a player, coach, manager and adviser, managed the Red Sox for parts of five seasons from 1976 through 1980. He was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2010, having left his mark on several former and current members of the organization.
Those who knew Zimmer best certainly have plenty of memories and anecdotes about the man known as “The Gerbil.” Below are some reactions to Zimmer’s passing, via the Red Sox.
What a terrific baseball man. Baseball and Don Zimmer were made for each other. I was privileged and consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to be on the same team with him, first as a coach, and more importantly as a manager. I learned a great deal of baseball from him, and to this day still use some of his memories when doing a game on TV. I first saw Zimmer in 1966 when he was a player/manager for the Buffalo team in the International League. On that team, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, was a future Hall of Famer, Johnny Bench. Little did I know that someday I would have the chance to be on the same team with Don. I thoroughly enjoyed being around him and can’t begin to tell you the number of laughs, and good times I experienced with him. I am a sad man today, as all of baseball should be.
He was my first and favorite manager, a great person and a baseball man. I loved playing for him, and he is going to be missed so much in the game.
When I think of Don Zimmer, I think of a wonderful family man. He was the best manager I ever played for. He loved his players so much and pulled for them on every pitch in every game for 66 years. He was such a competitor and wanted every player to be successful. I believe that every player loved the man. Even with pitchers, they had to know he had their best interests at heart. I believe that he is the most respected and highly thought of individual in the game. He had so many jobs that lasted forever, and people respected his knowledge. I feel for Soot, his children and grandchildren. He will be missed.
It is with extreme sadness that I write this. Don Zimmer was my first third base coach and then manager for most of the time that I was with the Boston Red Sox organization. Zim was in a big league uniform longer than I have been on this planet. I remember striking out in Fenway early in my career, and I tried to fling the bat towards the dugout. The pine tar that was on my bat stuck to my hand and the bat ended up behind home plate almost on the screen. He pulled me over and said that can never happen again. He didn’t want me to be a “bush leaguer.” I never threw my bat again.
Zim was the type of manager everyone loved to play for. He has been around baseball since day one, and he knew the game and the players. Zim was the type of manager that knew talent when he saw it, and he always spoke from the heart.
My condolences to the Zimmer family. I will always have a special place in my heart for Zim. This is a tremendous loss for baseball.
We are all going to miss Zim. He was a great man and great manager. He was in the game for a long time. He knew the game better than most. Baseball is going to miss him.
Dick Bresciani (Boston Red Sox Vice President / Emeritus and Team Historian, former Director of Publicity)
Family, baseball and trips to the race track. That’s all he wanted from life. When we named him the new manager in Texas in mid-July 1976, Zim asked me to sit with him on the plane. He wanted to know all about how to handle himself off the field as the Red Sox manager. He told me that Jack Rogers, our traveling secretary, said he would have a suite and credit cards and asked me, “What will I do with that?” He also joked, “I managed in the National League, but managing the Red Sox puts me in the major leagues for the first time!”