Saint Petersburg (United States) (AFP) – Don Zimmer, who spent 12 seasons in Major League Baseball as a player and more than four decades as a manager, coach and advisor, died Wednesday at the age of 83.
The Tampa Bay Rays said Zimmer, who had heart surgery in April, died in hospital in Dunedin, Florida.
Zimmer was in his 11th season with the Rays as a senior advisor and wore 66 on his uniform — the number of years he spent in baseball.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig called Zimmer “one of our game’s most universally beloved figures.”
Zimmer joined the Rays in 2004 after 10 memorable years with the New York Yankees, including eight as bench coach under manager Joe Torre.
Torre said Zimmer was like family.
“The game was his life,” Torre said in a statement. “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.”
Zimmer wore a uniform for 14 different major league teams in his career, including the Brooklyn Dodgers and Washington Senators.
“Don was the kind of person you could only find in the National Pastime,” Selig said. “As a player, Don experienced the joys of the 1955 world champion Brooklyn Dodgers and the struggles of the ’62 Mets.
“In his managerial and coaching career, this unique baseball man led the Cubs to a division crown and then, at his good friend Joe Torre’s loyal side, helped usher in a new era in the fabled history of the Yankees.”
From 1954 through 1965 with the Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Reds and Senators, Zimmer mostly played the infield and hit .235 with 91 home runs and 352 runs-batted-in in 1,095 career games.
He had been a manager, coach or advisor every year since 1971. He was named manager of the year in 1989 after leading the Cubs to a 16-game turnaround and the National League East title.
He won six World Series titles — four as a coach with the Yankees and two as a player, with Brooklyn in 1955 and Los Angeles in 1959.
The Rays said they will honor Zimmer with a moment of silence at Thursday’s game against the Marlins and will hold a pregame ceremony prior to Saturday’s game.
Photo: Doug Pensinger via AFP