x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sport poorer for loss of baseball lifer Don Zimmer

Many have been dubbed “a real baseball man”, but few embodied that moniker quite so fully as Don Zimmer, writes Paul Freelend.

In this Sept. 21, 2007 file photo, Tampa Bay Devil Rays special advisor Don Zimmer leans against the batting cage before a baseball game between the Devil Rays and Boston Red Sox, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Don Zimmer, a popular fixture in professional baseball for 66 years as a manager, player, coach and executive, has died. He was 83. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
In this Sept. 21, 2007 file photo, Tampa Bay Devil Rays special advisor Don Zimmer leans against the batting cage before a baseball game between the Devil Rays and Boston Red Sox, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Don Zimmer, a popular fixture in professional baseball for 66 years as a manager, player, coach and executive, has died. He was 83. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

As we were reminded during the recent commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, our world grows a little bit darker when we lose our living links to the past.

Many have been dubbed “a real baseball man”, but few embodied that moniker quite so fully as Don Zimmer. The much-travelled player, coach and manager died on Wednesday at age 83, having been involved in professional baseball from 1949 until his death.

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Zimmer’s life was a testament to his staying power. He was nearly killed after being hit in the head by a pitch while playing with the St Paul Saints in 1953, was unconscious for 13 days and at one point received last rites. Another beanball in 1956 broke his cheekbone, but he persevered.

Just as notable was Zimmer’s almost Forrest Gump-like ability to be near history.

He won world titles with the Dodgers, in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles. His teammates on the 1955 Caribbean Series winners Cangrejeros de Santurce included Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. He played with Jackie Robinson, coached Derek Jeter and was the New York Mets’ first third-baseman. Zimmer played, coached or managed with 12 different teams during his career and was memorable everywhere he went.

The story Vin Scully spun on the Dodgers' broadcast Wednesday was one of many recalled upon hearing of Zimmer’s passing. Not bad for a man who claimed to have never worked a day in his life.

sfreelend@thenational.ae

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