I loved Don Zimmer for being a baseball man. He played the game, coached the game, and he even looked like a baseball man should look. The fact that he played for, coached, and managed the Cubs practically guaranteed that I would have something to say about his passing, and sure enough I had two things to say.
In a piece written for ThroughTheFenceBaseball, which is geared to baseball fans across the spectrum, I pointed out that players wear helmets on their head when they hit because of a pitch that hit Don Zimmer in his head, way back in 1953. Players now wear helmets to protect themselves, because of Don Zimmer. It’s not the sort of thing that turns up in a box score or in his career statistics, but it’s important, nonetheless.
For WrigleyvilleNation, a website by and for Cubs fans, I took a different approach. I pointed out that Zimmer was on the field to congratulate Ryne Sandberg for hitting a home run (he actually hit two of them on that day) in the fabled “Sandberg game” in 1984 at Wrigley Field. That game is something of the gold standard to me–and perhaps to a few others–in the Cubs’ history. And Zimmer was there to shake the hand of the man of the hour. It will soon be the 30 year anniversary of that day, so I’m sure it will be revisited again soon. But it was a moment that only baseball could provide, so of course Don Zimmer was a part of it.
Will there be another outsize symbol of the game itself, now that Zimmer is gone? I can’t imagine there would be, but baseball has never failed to surprise me in the past. Zimmer’s long and distinguished career will likely never be seen again, though.
Thanks for the memories!