Don Zimmer, who managed the Texas Rangers for two seasons in the 1980s, died Wednesday in Florida. He was 83.
Zimmer was a popular fixture in professional baseball for 66 years as a manager, player, coach and executive. He was still working for the Tampa Bay Rays as a senior adviser, and the team confirmed he had died.
Zimmer had been in a rehabilitation center in Florida since having seven hours of heart surgery in mid-April.
“Baseball was his life. He was a really great ambassador of the game,” former catcher Jim Sundberg, who played for Zimmer with the Rangers and Cubs, said. “Not only did he manage, but he held other positions in the dugout and later in the front office.”
After starting as a minor league infielder in 1949, Zimmer went on to have one of the longest-lasting careers in baseball history.
Zimmer played for the only Brooklyn Dodgers team to win the World Series, played for the original New York Mets, nearly managed the Boston Red Sox to a championship in the 1970s and was Joe Torre’s right-hand man with the New York Yankees’ most recent dynasty.
Zimmer managed the Texas Rangers in 1981 and 1982, going 121-146 in that span.
Zimmer played for Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel and coached Derek Jeter — quite a span, by any major league measure.
It wasn’t always easy, either. Early in his career, he was beaned by a fastball and doctors had to put metal screws in his head. Many years later, Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez tossed Zimmer to the ground during a fight between the Red Sox and Yankees at Fenway Park in the playoffs.