Last night the Rays bid farewell to good friend and mentor Don Zimmer, who passed away after 83 spectacular baseball-filled years.
With current and former members of the organization expressing their sadness as well:
Feel like I lost my grandfather. Thoughts n prayers to Don Zimmer's family. #loveuZim— Todd Kalas (@TampaBayTK) June 5, 2014
Statement from #Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, on Zimmer: "Today we all lost a national treasure and a wonderful man."— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) June 5, 2014
More Sternberg, on Zim: "Don dedicated his life to the game he loved, and his impact will be felt for generations to come." ...— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) June 5, 2014
"His contributions to this org. are immeasurable. I am proud that he wore a Rays uniform for the past 11 years. We will miss him dearly."— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) June 5, 2014
Andrew Friedman was asked earlier today about Zimmer. Called Zim a "tremendous friend, mentor, resource" during his time with the Rays (1/2)— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) June 5, 2014
Friedman: "The things that he's gone through in this game are things that very few people who've walked the earth have ever experienced."— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) June 5, 2014
Baseball lost a true champion today. Don Zimmer was a shining example of what our game was and continues to be. Never have I looked up to...— Evan Longoria (@Evan3Longoria) June 5, 2014
anyone more. He taught me what was most important, to truly care about and respect our great game. I never took for granted a day with you..— Evan Longoria (@Evan3Longoria) June 5, 2014
We/the game of baseball lost a very special man tonight in Don Zimmer! His presence around the clubhouse made everyone better! #thankszim— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) June 5, 2014
I cant find the words to express how I feel about Zims passing. I wouldn't be in the big leagues if Zim wasnt there for me as a young player— BJ Upton (@BJUPTON2) June 5, 2014
He will be missed and I will think about him and his impact on me everyday.— BJ Upton (@BJUPTON2) June 5, 2014
Zim taught me a great life lesson. "If you want a baseball marriage to work, take your family everywhere they send you." I have to this day.— Justin Ruggiano (@justinruggiano) June 5, 2014
The man was truly one-of-a-kind and had such an impact on the sport, and it was so apparent from the endless kind words that were given from a variety of baseball folks:
My heart is very sad. A HOF person and someone overlooked for his service has moved on. Don Zimmer RIP my friend and manager. @MLB— Johnny Bench (@Johnny_Bench5) June 5, 2014
Joe Torre on Don Zimmer's death. pic.twitter.com/rJWT3KCZyK— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) June 5, 2014
Stop the presses! Don Zimmer has died. A true Mr. Baseball. Married at home plate. You can't love the game more.— Bob Ryan (@GlobeBobRyan) 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
Statement from Commissioner Selig on the passing of Don Zimmer. pic.twitter.com/YoPg0amXJG— MLB Public Relations (@MLB_PR) June 5, 2014
Within minutes, watched Joe Girardi (YES) and Maddon (SunSports) cry while talking about Zim. He transcended rivalries/teams. One of a kind.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) June 5, 2014
- The moving statement from Zim's family, given by his son Tom Zimmer.
"What a great life he has had. The game goes on without him now, but he surely would have expressed once again, "that I was so lucky to be part of this game for a lifetime. "
"Most important we need to thank the Tampa Bay Rays. Some 12 years ago, Vince Naimoli and staff hired him as a senior advisor. That was a very important day in his baseball life. Then the new ownership group of Stu Sternberg and staff bought the club and told him "We want you to be a part of this organization for as long as you want to be." You will never know what that meant to an aging baseball lifer who thrived at being around the ballpark. Stu, you literally kept him alive for another four to five years by this gracious gesture. You treated him as a second father, and in turn he cherished his relationship with you, the minority owners, the front office staff, coaches, managers, players, trainers, clubhouse boys, and his main man "Westy" (Chris Westmoreland, the clubhouse manager).
We would like to add, in the sixty plus years Don Zimmer called the St. Pete area his home, writers from newspapers on both sides of the Bay, as well as all the TV news stations, were so kind to him with wonderful articles and stories that will be remembered forever."
- More quotes from players and coaches about Zim, from Marc Topkin.
- Fox Sports Florida provided a nice ode, calling him "more than just a coach to the heartbroken Rays."
- "He was Popeye in Brooklyn, the Gerbil in Boston, Yoda in New York and Zim everywhere. He was the last of the Dodgers, a talisman for the Yankees, a great-grandfather to the Rays and an indelible part of the tapestry of Red Sox history for nearly 40 years, from the age of Lynn and Rice and Bill Lee and Bucky Effin' Dent to the era of Pedro and Papi and beyond. Last that long, and sometimes you pass through all the stages of public judgment, from scorn to tolerance to grudging respect to, finally, something approaching love." - Gordon Edes, for ESPN
- "Indeed, they don't get any more old school than a man who spent 66 years in the game and never drew a paycheck outside of it." - Jay Jaffe, for Sports Illustrated
- "Zimmer later managed the Rangers and the Cubs, but his greatest acclaim in the latter stages of his career was as Joe Torre's consigliere in New York. Zimmer had a prior relationship with George Steinbrenner because his offseason home was in St. Petersburg (I remember the day in 1978 when he proudly announced that the home he had purchased in 1953 was now paid for) but he had nothing going at all with Torre when the phone rang and Torre asked him to be his bench coach. It certainly came as no shock when he wound up in the employ of the Rays organization. Talk about a natural fit." - Bob Ryan, for the Boston Globe
- Two older profiles of Zim, one from Esquire that has remained one of my favorite pieces of writing since I first read it a few years back. How could it not be with this opening line? "Like Love, Zimmer's all around us. All you need are eyes to see. I can't explain."
The other from Buster Olney in the New York Times in 1999:
"But Zimmer's eyes are soft when he is with friends and trading barbs. If he has a Charlie Brown head, then he has Snoopy's love of life: happiness is playing baseball with friends. He can tell many, many stories. Joe Girardi, the catcher who has been with Zimmer on three different teams, including the Yankees, said players look forward to rain delays, when someone might ask Zimmer about Willie Mays, or maybe Joe DiMaggio or Casey falling asleep in the dugout, or breaking curfew or the day the Cubs fired him. Zimmer spills over with anecdotes."
- Jesse Spector tweeted a picture of Zim in every team uniform he donned, which was a moving little memorial shortly after the news was announced. The best:
With Jackie. pic.twitter.com/XnpZlVze6W— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) June 5, 2014
What a life, and what an impact on baseball. How lucky we all were.
Let these two gems take you into your Thursday:
One for laughs...
And one for tears...
Rest in Peace, Zim. The Trop is a little emptier today.