Don Zimmer honoured in pre-game ceremony by Rays
Tampa Bay adviser, longtime baseball man died Wednesday at 83
Joe Torre, Tommy Lasorda and Jim Leyland were among the many friends and family members at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday to celebrate the life of longtime baseball man Don Zimmer.
The tribute was held before the Tampa Bay Rays played Seattle. Zimmer, a senior adviser for the Rays, died Wednesday at 83 in a hospital in nearby Dunedin.
Both teams wore Zimmer's No. 23 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey as they lined up along the foul lines. Fans stood and cheered at the end of a video tribute.
There is no funeral or other memorial service planned.
More than 20 family members, including Zimmer's wife "Soot" -- they were married at home plate during a minor league game in 1951 -- also attended.
"A great life," Soot Zimmer said. "No regrets."
Son Tom Zimmer, a scout with the San Francisco Giants, caught the ceremonial first pitch thrown by granddaughter Whitney Goldstein.
His loss creates a void in my life. ... I think baseball is just going to miss the presence of him. He was a big teddy bear, there's no question about it.- Former MLB manager Joe Torre on Don Zimmer
Torre says Zimmer was "one of a kind" and "an institution."
Zimmer was Torre's bench coach for four World Series championships with the Yankees.
"His loss creates a void in my life," Torre said. "I hired a coach who became a family member, basically. I think baseball is just going to miss the presence of him. He was a big teddy bear, there's no question about it."
Zimmer spent 66 years in baseball as a player, manager, coach and executive.
"I just hope that people remember what a great baseball man this guy was," Leyland said. "He was a character, but he wasn't somebody that you laughed at when you understood how much this guy knew about baseball. His passion for the game and his passion for people."
"It's kind of an ironic day," he said. "Today's the day of the Belmont, as you know, and everybody knows how he liked horses. Family came first, baseball second, horses third. So, family is here today, we're going to have a ballgame and the Belmont is today."
Zimmer convinced Torre not to make ties mandatory when the Yankees travelled. Torre, who wore a tie Saturday with horses on it, removed it when the subject came up during the ceremony.
Yankees star Derek Jeter made a video statement. So did Yankees manager Joe Girardi, whose first big league manager was Zimmer with the Chicago Cubs.
"He made an impact like no else has," Texas Rangers senior adviser Tom Giordano said.
The ceremony ended with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" played on a bagpipe.
"Perfect," Tom Zimmer said. "Emotional."