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Merrimack Valley

June 5, 2014

Don Zimmer, 66-year baseball icon with close ties to Windham, dies at 83

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.(AP) — Don Zimmer, an icon in professional baseball for 66 years with strong ties to The Eagle-Tribune area died Wednesday. He was 83.

The former Red Sox manager, who was still working for the Tampa Bay Rays as a senior adviser, was the grandfather of Salem High softball legend Whitney (Mollica) Goldstein, now the head softball coach at WPI.

Zimmer also contributed a great deal to the Windham, N.H., baseball and softball community. He donated memorabilia, including signed photographs, baseballs and bats, to raise money for the town’s baseball and softball program and Griffin Park. He also volunteered there.

Zimmer had been in a rehabilitation center in Florida since having seven hours of heart surgery in mid-April.

After starting as a minor league infielder in 1949, Zimmer went on to have one of the longest-lasting careers in baseball history.

Zimmer played for the only Brooklyn Dodgers team to win the World Series, played for the original New York Mets, nearly managed the Boston Red Sox to a championship in the 1970s and was Joe Torre’s right-hand man with the New York Yankees’ most recent dynasty.

Zimmer was easily recognizable for the big chaw that always seemed to be in his cheek, and his storytelling was a treat for anyone lucky enough to hear him.

Beloved by many, his No. 66 jersey had been worn recently by longtime Tampa Bay third base coach Tom Foley in tribute. The Rays hosted the Miami Marlins last night, and Foley was crying in the dugout.

Along the way, Zimmer played for Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel and coached Derek Jeter — quite a span, by any major league measure.

It wasn’t always easy, either. Early in his career, he was beaned by a fastball and doctors had to put metal screws in his head. Many years later, Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez tossed Zimmer to the ground during a fight between the Red Sox and Yankees at Fenway Park in the playoffs.

Zimmer spent time in a lot of uniforms. He played for the Dodgers, Mets, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati and Washington. He managed San Diego, Boston, Texas and the Cubs.

“Probably the best baseball man I knew,” Billy Connors, who coached under Zimmer on the Cubs, told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

“We had a lot of great times. I loved listening to him every day,” he said.

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