|Photo of Coach Don Zimmer and Manager Joe Torre, Barton Silverman/The New York Times, Fair Use Claimed, full link to the article below (sharing authorized on the NYT's webpage)|
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Don Zimmer, baseball player, manager, coach and legend. He went to the big dugout in the sky at the age of 83. It is fair to say that in his life, he both hit for the cycle and ran the bases.
Back in the Yankees heyday, he was a fixture on the bench, the lovable sidekick to the beloved Joe Torre. Although he clearly got the worst of his scuffle with Pedro Martinez during a bench-clearing brawl, his legend grew (if that was even possible) when he charged the mound...as a senior citizen. And then, as The New York Times reported, he promptly apologized for, "...sullying the game he loved." I'm sure the fans in Boston howled their delight at watching "Zim" get thrown to the ground. I wondered if they remembered he used to manage their beloved Red Socks? Yup, he sure did, from '76 to '80.
I haven't been following baseball much. Truth be told, I only pay passing interest to it and that's about the time football's gearing up. (September is, without question, my favorite month, stay tuned, that's a blog post for down the road.) But Don Zimmer was more than just a guy associated with baseball. He was a guardian of the game, and there's a difference.
Baseball, in and of itself, is an abstract concept. A ball is thrown, a bat hits it, a mitt stops it on the ground, the ball is thrown to a base, so on and so forth. But the game is about people, people on the field, people in the stands. The game is about heartbreak and euphoria, of rally caps and tirades against umpires who never change their minds, only throw out the manager to the utter satisfaction of the crowd. The game is about fathers showing sons and daughters the ballpark. It is about men who become heroes and about those heroes who become icons.
The game is about something else, it is a mirror to view the times we experience. Coach Zimmer was there during the 2001 season that was gashed open and scared forever by the horror of 9/11. That year the World Series deeper into the fall than ever before. It was when the future Hall of Fame inductee Derek Jeter was proclaimed, "Mr. November."
It seemed as if the Yankees were destined to win yet another World Series. It would be one for the ages. The city that never sleeps wins it all even as the Towers burial pyre still smouldered.
Except for one small detail- they didn't win.
The Arizona Diamondbacks ended up winning that year. Sometimes, life is not a storybook ending. Sometimes, you lose. Baseball, in the abstract, is about the execution of the sport. But the game is about winning and losing and the joy and pain that goes with it.
I mention this for I believe that as the Arizona Diamondbacks wildly cheered (and understandably so) their amazing win, Coach Zimmer quietly, perhaps without words, helped his teammates, his proteges, deal with the moment. He guided them in dealing with the pain, the hurt, the sting. The game can, after all, be cruel. Coach Zimmer had seen and more importantly, felt, it all. He knew of what he spoke.
Now that is all in the past for Don Zimmer. He's gone to his reward and something tells me there's a game going on upstairs. Not just baseball, but the game. Unfortunately, even the MLB channels on Direct TV don't carry those. That's a shame, for I'd dearly love to see that one.
Go hit for the cycle Don, you've earned it.
Here's the link to the obituary in The New York Times:
Be well my friends,