Donald William Zimmer was born on January 17, 1931 in Western Hills, Ohio and went to the same high school Pete Rose would go to in Cincinnati. Zimmer was an infielder earning the nickname Popeye, getting signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.
In the minors while playing at Elmira, he got married at home plate before a game to his wife Jean Soot. In 1953 he was leading the American Association with 23 HRs & 63 Rbis in July when he was beaned with a pitch in the temple and was seriously injured. He was in & out of consciousness for a week, lost vision, had to have holes drilled in his skull to relieve the swelling. He was told he was done in baseball, but wouldn’t accept that & made a remarkable comeback.
He was brought up to the Brooklyn club in July of 1954 as a utility infielder, behind the talents of Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson & Jim Gilliam. In his first game he hit a triple to start out his career, batting .182 in 33 at bats on the year.
Zimmer was a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers 1955 Boys of Summer World Championship team. He played well enough to see action in 84 games, batting .239 showing some good power with 15 HRs 10 doubles & 50 RBIs in just 280 at bats.
In Game #1 of the 1955 World Series Zimmer drove in two runs with a single & sac fly off Whitey Ford, although Brooklyn lost 6-5. Overall he played in four of the seven games, going 2-9.
In 1956 he was hitting .300 until a June game against the Cincinnati Reds ended his season. He was hit in the face with a fast ball from pitcher Hal Jeffcoat and had to be hospitalized. Once again it looked like his career may be over but Zimmer triumphantly returned for an appearance as a defensive replacement on September 22nd.
Zimmer recuperated, and played in 84 games in 1957 batting .219 with 6 HRs &19 doubles. He was at short stop for the Dodgers in the last game ever played at Ebbetts Field on September 24, 1957. In that game he got two hits as the Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0.
As the Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles in 1958, Zimmer was there played in 127 games batting .262 with career highs HRs (17) RBIs (60) & stolen bases (14). The 14 steals were 8th most in the league, and he was only thrown out twice all season. He did strike out 92 times which was third most in the NL.
In the Dodgers 1959 Championship season, he shared time at short with rookie Maury Wills, batting only .165 playing in 97 games. He got one at bat in the World Series against the Chicago White Sox, going 0-1.
In April of 1960 he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Ron Peranoski & $25,000 cash. That season he made his only All Star team batting .252 with 13 HRs & 40 RBIs.
In October of 1961 he was drafted away from the Chicago Cubs by the newly formed New York Mets as the fifth pick in the premium phase of the expansion draft. He became an original Met playing as the team’s first ever third baseman, in the first Mets game ever, batting in the seventh position at Sportsman Park in St. Louis.
Don Zimmer got the second hit in Met history, when he singled off the Cards Larry Jackson, in the second inning. He hit safely in his first three games, but his Mets career was to very be short lived. After just 14 games he was traded to his hometown Cincinnati Reds for one of the two pitchers named Bob Miller & Cliff Cook.
In 14 games as a New York Met, Zimmer went 4-52 for a .077 average driving in his only Mets run on April 27th. It was a 6th inning RBI single off Philadelphia's Cal McLish, bringing the score to 11-3 in the Phillies favor.
He finished the season in Cincinnati batting .250 in 63 games. Overall he hit just .213 & then was sent back to the Los Angeles Dodgers in January for a minor leaguer.
In June of 1963 after 22 games as a Dodger his contract was purchased by the Washington Senators, playing there for three seasons. In 1964 he played in 121 games over, 87 as the team's third baseman batting .246 with 12 HRs & 38 RBIs. Zimmer finished his playing career with the Senators in 1965 at age 34.
In his 12 year playing career (1095 games) he hit.235 with 773 hits 91 HRs 130 doubles 22 triples 45 stolen bases 246 walks 352 RBIs & a .290 on base %. He would play 375 games at third base, 294 games at second base, 288 games at short, 35 games at catcher & eight games in the outfield.
Retirement: He managed in the minors and became a Montreal Expos coach in 1971. By 1972 Zimmer began his long managerial career, first as skipper with the San Diego Padres (1972-1973). He finished sixth both times with the Padres. He then moved on to the Boston Red Sox replacing Darrell Johnson after the Sox pennant year of 1975.
Zimmer remained in Boston from 1976-1980. He finished third three times, second once & fourth in his final season. In 1978 his Red Sox blew a big August lead with many questionable moves on the manager’s part. He played catcher Carlton Fisk in 154 games even though he complained of sore knees. Zimmer kept Butch Hopson at third base with floating bone chips in his elbow.
Hobson ended up making 43 errors & could not hit for any power. He despised "The Space Man" pitcher Bill Lee & kept him out of a key game against the A.L. New York team, even though Lee had dominated them all year. Lee would later refer to Zimmer as “the Gerbil”.
Next Zimmer went to the Texas Rangers (1981-1982) then the Chicago Cubs (1988-1991). In 1989 his Cubs won 93 games and won the NL East, but lost to the San Franciso Giants in the NLCS. He was honored with the Manager of the Year Award that season.
In 1991 he was fired after an 18-19 start, ending his 13 year managerial career at 885-858 with a .508 winning percentage. Since then he has been a long time coach with various teams & has written two books.
In 2008 he suffered a stroke and then served as a senior advisor for the Tampa Rays at Spring Training & home games. He wears a uniform number that celebrates how many years he has been in major league baseball. Each year he goes higher on the uniform number to match his seasons.