Baseball lifer Don Zimmer passed away Wednesday night at the age of 83.
Zimmer — who suffered a stroke in December 2008 and underwent heart surgery April 16 to repair a leaky valve —was working as a senior advisor for the Rays in his 66th season in professional baseball, and was the last Brooklyn Dodger still working in baseball.
Beginning his career in Brooklyn in 1949, “Zim” was an infielder on the borough’s lone World Series-winning team in 1955, starting Game 7 of Johnny Podres’ shutout win over the Yankees.
Zimmer played for six different teams, which included the inaugural season of the Mets in 1962.
“We are saddened by the passing of Don Zimmer, an original Met, who played in our very first game,” the Mets said in a statement. “He gave six decades of his life to baseball. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Zimmer later would manage four different teams, including the Red Sox and Cubs, before joining the Yankees as Joe Torre’s bench coach from 1996-2003, when the team won four World Series titles and six American League pennants.
“I hired him as a coach, and he became like a family member to me. He has certainly been a terrific credit to the game,” Joe Torre said in a statement. “The game was his life. And his passing is going to create a void in my life and my wife Ali’s. We loved him. The game of Baseball lost a special person tonight. He was a good man.” …
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Zimmer, nicknamed “Popeye” for his big cheeks, spent 65 years in baseball.
But few of them were as wild as his three-plus year stint managing the Chicago Cubs, who he led to a division title in 1989 with an unpredictable style that has never been replicated.
Zimmer began his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, and later played for the Cubs, Mets, Reds and Washington Senators during a 12-year career, mostly as an infielder. After spending the 1966 season playing in Japan, Zimmer managed in the minors from 1967-’70 before becoming a coach with Montreal in 1971. He had several coaching stints afterwards, and managed the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs, going 885-858 and winning one division title with the Cubs.