Icon: Don Zimmer
Former baseball player, coach and manager; senior adviser, Tampa Bay Rays; Born 1931; Lives in Seminole, Fla.
» The most important thing is to have a good wife. You’re gone half the time, and the wife is home with the kids. It’s a tough life. Now they have nannies. We couldn’t afford nannies when I played.
» Starting out, I made $140 a month, but I thought I was a millionaire. Getting paid to play baseball? That was something special.
Don Zimmer [Photo: Jay Carlson]
» I never squawked about my salary. I would say that’s part of why I’m still in the game after 62 years.
» You can’t win if you don’t have good players. If you have good players, you’re a pretty good manager.
» I got hit in the head in 1953 playing in the minor leagues. I had a skull fracture and was in the hospital 31 days. He was a big, redheaded pitcher. He wasn’t throwing at me. He was just wild. We get a Christmas card from his family every year.
» In 1956, I’m up with the Brooklyn Dodgers, game of the week, Saturday afternoon, and I get hit, and it shatters my cheekbone. And I’ve got almost like a detached retina. Al Campanis always said that he thought that I would have been one hell of a player if not for getting hit.
» I’m the reason for helmets. When I was in the hospital, they made it compulsory in the National League to wear helmets.
» Chicago, 1989, I’m managing the Cubs. Jim Frey was my GM. We’re ready to leave spring training and he says to me, ‘Do you think we could win 81 games this year?’ I said, ‘Jim, if we win 81 games, we’ll dance down Michigan Avenue together.’ Well, we win 93 and the division. If I wanted a double steal, they executed it. If I wanted a bunt, they laid it down. If I wanted a squeeze play, they laid down the squeeze. The newspapers were writing, ‘Zimmer’s a genius! Zimmer’s a genius!’ The next year, I’m the dumbest guy in the world. That’s the way baseball is.
» Boston was a town I loved, but it can be a tough town. I got booed there a lot. We were winning 91, 93, 97, 99 games but never a championship, and I was the cause. People would come down from the upper deck hollering, ‘Zimmer, you’re a bum! You can’t manage!’ You have to take it. If you fight back, you have a war on your hands.
» You know who I’d like to talk to? I wish I knew him well enough that I could contact him: Tiger Woods. I would love to sit down and talk to him for half an hour, just about what you and I are talking about because he’s going to hear things on the tour that he ain’t never heard before. Nasty things. If he fights back, he ain’t got a chance. But if he takes it like I’m telling you I took it, he’ll win them over.
» Jackie Robinson treated me great. I wasn’t a great player, but I think what he respected about me is if I had to go through a wall to catch the ball or if I had to dive for a ball, I would. That’s the way I played, and he respected that. We became very good friends. Jackie would call me for a golf game. That was a thrill, Jackie Robinson asking Don Zimmer to play golf with him.
» I think they’ve made it tough on umpires. I’m not an umpire lover. I respect them. I sit there and see a ball that’s far outside, and they show it on replay three times. The umpire missed it. Today, the umpires get critiqued pretty good.
» When I go to different events where I have to talk, I always start by saying, ‘What’s a career .235 hitter doing up here on the dais?’
» I don’t say much about this, but I’m sitting there in the dugout next to Billy Martin and there was a rule at that time that so many inches up that’s as far as the pine tar can go. George Brett comes up with a bat, and I seen black all the way up to the label. And he hits that home run, and I said to Billy, ‘I guarantee you that bat is illegal by the rules’ and Billy started out. I can still see it, George Brett charging that umpire. I’m not proud of it, but it was a rule.
» For 25 years, George Steinbrenner was my friend, a good friend, but we haven’t spoken since I quit the Yankees. I don’t regret leaving, but I regret the way it worked out with George.
» I like to go fishing. I’m a city fisherman. I have to go with somebody who knows what they’re doing. I break the line, they have to help me fix it.
» Buzzie Bavasi, when I got hit in the head, said, ‘Go to Florida and recuperate,’ and he gave me money to come down here. We never left. It’s home.
» The thing with Pedro Martinez, that came from a long period. His act to me was tired. He was a great pitcher, but I’ve seen this guy do things over in their dugout, making gestures at us and throwing at guys. There were just so many things that irritated me. When the brawl happened, I was the last guy in the dugout. I’m just sitting there — too old to fight. I said I can’t sit here. So, I started out and I’m looking around for Martinez. Truthfully, what I wanted to do was go after him with my head in his chest and I figured I could knock him down. As it is, he got criticized for throwing an old man on the ground, but he didn’t do nothing wrong. He was just protecting himself. The next day, they wanted me to go on television, and our PR guy didn’t want me to go on because he thought I was going to say things that I shouldn’t say. Hell, I knew what to say. I said I was sorry that I did what I did.
» I knew nothing else but baseball, and I didn’t have to know nothing else. Baseball was my life, and after 62 years I’m still here.
In case you missed it:
- Florida Icon: Barbara Mainster
- Florida Icon: Walter Lanier ‘Red' Barber
- Louise Gopher is a 'Florida Icon'
- H. Lee Moffitt is a 'Florida Icon'
- Kiran Patel is a 'Florida Icon'
- 'Florida Icon' Howard C. Tibbals shares life lessons
- Alex D. Brickler is a 'Florida Icon'
- Life lessons from hockey great Phil Esposito
- Lucy Morgan is a 'Florida Icon'
- Donald Goodman is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ed Droste is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ray Ferrero Jr. - Florida Icon
- W. George Allen is a 'Florida Icon'
- Tom James is a 'Florida Icon'
- Patrick Smith is a 'Florida Icon'
- Jerry Uelsmann is a 'Florida Icon'
- John L. Parker is a 'Florida Icon'
- C.C. 'Doc' Dockery is a 'Florida Icon'
- Toni Jennings is a 'Florida Icon'
- Dave Barry is a 'Florida Icon'
- Shaquille O'Neal is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ruth Alexander is a Florida Icon
- Brian Johnson is a Florida Icon
- Florida Icon: Sam Gibbons
- Thomas 'Blue' Fulford
- Icon: Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits
- Icon: Charles E. 'Chuck' Cobb Jr.
- Icon: John DeGrove
- Icon: Charles Gray
- Icon: Harry Crews
- Icon: Burt Reynolds
- Icon: Tibor Hollo
- Icon: Gary Mormino
- Icon: Richard Gonzmart
- Icon: Bob Graham
- Icon: Ward Hall
- Icon: Eugenie Clark
- Icon: Warrick Dunn
- Icon: Arthur Rutenberg
- Icon: Chris Evert
- Icon: Preston Haskell
- Icon: Joseph Kittinger
- Icon: The Fanjul Brothers
- Icon: Romero Britto
- Icon: Steve Raymund
- Icon: Cesar L. Alvarez
- Icon: Juan 'Chi Chi' Rodriguez
- Icon: Gay Culverhouse
- Icon: Gene Leedy
- Icon: William R. Hough
- Icon: Peter Prichard
- Icon: Ed Price
- Icon: David L. Paul
- Icon: Jan Garavaglia
- Icon: Claude R. Kirk Jr.
- Icon: Kenneth H. 'Buddy' MacKay
- Icon: Dick Vitale
- Icon: Michael Gannon
- Icon: Marcella Hazan
- Icon: Tony Little
- Icon: Wade L. Hopping
- Icon: Edgar Mitchell
- Icon: James Rosenquist
- Icon: Bob Martinez
- Icon: Arnold Palmer
- Icon: Don Shula
- Icon: Mike Peters
- Icon: Margaret D. Lowman
- Icon: Doug Williams
- Icon: Bob Butterworth
- Icon: Fred Schultz
- Icon: Eugene Patterson
- Icon: Harris Mullen
- Icon: Bill Haast
- Icon: Marion P. Hammer
- Icon: Albert Dunlap
- Icon: Joseph Woodrow Hatchett
- Icon video: Joseph Hatchett
- Icon: Talbot 'Sandy' D'Alemberte
- Icon: John Walsh
- Icon: James Robert Cade
- Icon: Nathaniel Pryor Reed
- Icon: Gus Stavros
- Icon: Betty Castor
- Icon: Mary Ann Carroll
- Icon: George Steinbrenner
- Icon: Ferdie Pacheco
- Icon: Vic Dunaway
- Icon: George Smathers
- Icon: Phyllis Apple
- Icon: Nick Bollettieri
- Icon: Harris Rosen
- Icon: Max Mayfield
- Icon: Carrie Meek
- Icon: Andres Duany
- Icon: T. Willard Fair
- Icon: Bobby Bowden
- Icon: Stetson Kennedy
- Icon: Don Francisco
- Icon: Janet Reno
- Icon: Reubin O'D. Askew
- Icon: Clyde Butcher
- Icon: Willie Gary
- Icon: Wayne Huizenga