ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.-After 66 years in professional baseball, Rays Senior Baseball Advisor Don Zimmer passed away today BayCare Alliant Hospital in Dunedin, Fla.. He was 83. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Jean ("Soot"), his son Thomas, daughter Donna, and four grandchildren: Beau, Whitney, Ron and Lane.
Over the course of his 56 seasons in the major leagues as a player, coach and manager he wore 14 different uniforms-but none longer than his 11 seasons with the Rays. Zimmer reached the postseason 19 times and owned six World Series rings: four as a coach with the New York Yankees and two as a player for the Brooklyn (1955) and Los Angeles (1959) Dodgers. He managed 13 seasons for the San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, and was named National League Manager of the Year in 1989 after guiding the Cubs to the NL East Division title. Prior to joining the Rays in 2004, he spent eight seasons as bench coach for Yankees Manager Joe Torre.
"Today we all lost a national treasure and a wonderful man," said Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg. "Don dedicated his life to the game he loved, and his impact will be felt for generations to come. His contributions to this organization are immeasurable. I am proud that he wore a Rays uniform for the past 11 years. We will miss him dearly."
The Rays will honor the baseball icon with a moment of silence at tomorrow's Rays-Marlins game at Tropicana Field and will conduct a special pregame ceremony prior to the Rays-Mariners game on Saturday.
Zimmer signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949, beginning a 19-year playing career as an infielder. On July 7, 1953, while playing for St. Paul in the American Association, he was struck in the head by a pitch, spent two weeks in a semi-coma and missed the rest of the season with a fractured skull. The following year the Dodgers promoted him to the big leagues, where he was in the company of eight future Hall of Famers: Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Dick Williams, Don Newcombe, Tom LaSorda and Manager Walter Alston. In total, Zim was teammates with 14 Hall of Famers, played under three Hall of Fame managers, and coached or managed many more.
He went on to play 12 seasons in the majors for the Brooklyn (1954-57) and Los Angeles (1958-59, 1963) Dodgers, Cubs (1960-61), New York Mets (1962), Cincinnati Reds (1962) and Washington Senators (1963-65). Zimmer was named to the 1961 NL All-Star Team as a second baseman for the Cubs. In 1962, he was the first player to try on a Mets uniform, modeling it at Huggins-Stengel Field in St. Petersburg.
Zimmer was born in Cincinnati on January 17, 1931, and attended Western Hills High School, where he began dating Soot. He and Soot, his high school sweetheart, were married beside home plate at Dunn Field in Elmira, N.Y., on
August 16, 1951. Since the late 1950s, they have made the Tampa Bay area their home.