Zim: A Baseball Life

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Seven decades of remarkable stories and memorable moments as told by one of baseball's most colorful characters

"Zim: A Baseball Life . . . may be the best decision the Yankee coach ever made. On every page, he is there to be appreciated for his journey as a player, manager, and coach for more than half a century as well as for his wisdom, his humor, and for his just being himself."

­­Dave Anderson, New York ...

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Overview

Seven decades of remarkable stories and memorable moments as told by one of baseball's most colorful characters

"Zim: A Baseball Life . . . may be the best decision the Yankee coach ever made. On every page, he is there to be appreciated for his journey as a player, manager, and coach for more than half a century as well as for his wisdom, his humor, and for his just being himself."

­­Dave Anderson, New York Times

"Perfect . . . It's as if we were sitting down with Zim for a few beers and a long night of great stories."

­­Booklist

"A cut above the average baseball autobiography."

­­Publishers Weekly

Don Zimmer's autobiography takes the baseball fan everywhere he's been over his 53 years in the game. From Stengel to Torre, from Pee Wee Reese to Derek Jeter, this isthe story of Zim's remarkable journey through baseball.

Don Zimmer is currently the bench coach for the New York Yankees. He lives in Treasure Island, Florida.

Bill Madden is an award-winning columnist with the New York Daily News who has covered baseball for more than twenty-five years. He is the coauthor of Damned Yankees and has known Zimmer for more than twenty years.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
His round, plump face is permanently contorted; his injury-plagued body sets off metal detectors at airports; and he claims ever so modestly that he's heard more national anthems than any other man alive. New York Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer has been in baseball since 1949, and neither a barrage of life-threatening injuries nor a fistful of World Series rings have convinced him that he's had enough. This memoir is a hoot, a holler, and a grand slam: No one in baseball has better stories than this Yankee/ Met/ Red Sox/ Dodger/ Cub/ Red/ Senator.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Zimmer is a "lifer," having been involved with professional baseball for half a century. A native of Cincinnati, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949; a powerful shortstop, he was the logical successor to Pee Wee Reese. Zimmer suffered several beanings that nearly cost him his life and never became the ballplayer he was projected to be. Still, "Popeye" so-called because of his bulging forearms did enjoy a successful major league career. A member of Brooklyn's only World Champion team in 1955, he then played on the Los Angeles Dodgers' first world championship team four years later. He tells riveting stories about the "Boys of Summer," like Billy Loes, Johnny Podres, Clem Labine and Duke Snider. Zimmer became a much-traveled utility infielder and spent his last year playing in Japan, where, he observed, the horses "ran backwards" at the racetrack. He recounts his stints as a manager in San Diego, Boston, Texas and Chicago, and as Joe Torres's bench coach during the 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 Yankee World Championships. Zimmer pulls no punches in his evaluations of baseball celebrities like Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, managers Don Baylor, Billy Martin and Joe Torre, and owners Eddie Chiles and George Steinbrenner. Zimmer's book is bluntly honest and filled with amusing anecdotes, a cut above the average baseball autobiography. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Zimmer has spent 53 years in baseball, and though he'll never make the Hall of Fame, he has become something of a national treasure. He began his career with the fabled Brooklyn Dodgers alongside Jackie Robinson. He has managed and coached many of the game's greats and has lately gained fame as Joe Torre's right-hand man. Ever since his recent dugout beaning by a foul ball, Zim has been seen in a New York Yankee army helmet, symbolic of his true grit. Readers nationwide will love this tale. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071390033
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, The
  • Publication date: 3/1/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Don Zimmer is currently the bench coach for the New York Yankees. He lives in Treasure Island, Florida.

Bill Madden is an award-winning columnist with the New York Daily News who has covered baseball for more than twenty-five years. He is the coauthor of Damned Yankees and has known Zimmer for more than twenty years.

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Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


Who Am I
and How Did
I Get Here?


I thought of calling this book "Confessions of a .235 Lifetime Hitter" if only because my own grandchildren have told me that the thing I'll be most remembered for after 52 years in baseball is wearing an army helmet in the dugout. Not for being a central figure in one of the most brilliant managing moves in World Series history, or for being one of the four $125,000 "premium" expansion players selected by the original Mets in 1961, or even for managing two of baseball's most storied franchises, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, in two of their most exciting seasons.

    Nope, my grandkids tell me, that army helmet—which a national TV audience of 30 million people saw me wearing in the Yankee dugout the night after I got beaned in the head by a foul ball—has forever given me my special niche in baseball history.

    I suppose that's only appropriate since the most defining moments of my career have involved my head. In this latest and hopefully last one, it was the fifth inning of the first game of the 1999 Division Series between the Yankees and Texas Rangers. I was sitting next to Joe Torre in the Yankee dugout in my capacity as bench coach. Chuck Knoblauch, the Yankees' leadoff man, was at the plate and he took a funny swing at the pitch. I was half-looking out on the field and half-watching Knoblauch and I didn't see the ball until it was about two feet from my face. I ducked my head and—smack!—I felt the ball hit me on the side of my face. The next thing I knew I was laying on the floor ofthedugout, numb and woozy. Then I saw blood and I got panicked. I yelled, "Get this jacket off!"

    They cut the jacket off me, carried me back into the clubhouse and laid me on the trainer's table. I was bleeding like a hog and didn't really know how badly I was hurt. I knew I had been whacked in the head but I didn't know where. That's what scared me, knowing all the things that have happened to my head.

    As I lay there, I looked up and Yogi Berra and George Steinbrenner were standing over me. It was then that they told me the ball had hit me between the neck and ear and had nicked the ear which accounted for all the blood. George was especially concerned and I heard him say they're going to have to put a Plexiglass shield in front of the dugout "because we can't have guys getting hurt like this."

    They told me my wife, Jean, who I have always affectionately called Soot, was out in the hallway, and they led her into the clubhouse. I told her, "Have someone take you back to your seat in the stands, grab yourself a hotdog and enjoy the rest of the game."

    After she left, all I could think was, This would have been a helluva way to end my career in baseball, especially since this was the way it all started.

    I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended Western Hills High School. My coach there, Paul Nohr, was one of the greatest high school baseball coaches ever. Nearly a dozen of his players, including Pete Rose, Russ Nixon, Clyde Vollmer, Herman Wehmeier, Ed Brinkman, and Art Mahaffey, went on to the big leagues, and four of them—Rose, Nixon, Jim Frey, and myself—all managed in the big leagues. That's quite a legacy.

    The summer before my senior year at Western Hills, my American Legion team won the national championship. The finals were held at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles and we got to meet Babe Ruth, who was at the game doing some promotional work for American Legion baseball. Ruth gave a speech after the final game—I'll never forget how hoarse his voice was; he died a year later—and they finally had to quiet the crowd down after about two or three minutes so he could talk. He said he had traveled all over the country watching American Legion baseball and the best team won. You can imagine how that made us all feel. Then he signed a ball for every one of us.

    When we returned in triumph to Cincinnati, it seemed like the whole town came out to the railroad station to greet us. I lived on a dead-end street with no traffic and we played ball there just about every day. That summer, the ball we used was the one Ruth signed for me. What did I know? We played with it until we knocked the cover off it and then we put black tape all over it. The last time I saw it, it was in some sewer. Only a few years ago did I realize Babe Ruth signed balls are worth anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 in good shape.

    As a reward for winning the championship, the townspeople gave us a trip to New York and tickets for the first two games of the 1947 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers.

    I'll never forget that first day I set foot inside Yankee Stadium and saw Jackie Robinson at first base for the Dodgers. I think of that every time I walk into Yankee Stadium. That was Jackie's rookie season, and little did I know a few years later I'd be calling him a teammate and, even more importantly, a friend.

    During my senior year, in which I made all-Ohio as quarterback for our football team and played shortstop on the baseball team, I was offered numerous scholarships to play both sports in college. I got invited along with one of my best friends, Glenn Sample (who was a tough lineman), to fly down to the University of Kentucky for the weekend where the legendary coach, Bear Bryant, had invited us. I had never been in an airplane. Sample was planning to go to college. I wasn't, but for a chance to get my first plane ride, I made the trip with him. I roomed with Babe Parilli, one of the all-time great quarterbacks who went from Kentucky to a long career in the pros. They had us throw passes and do some running in our T-shirts and shorts, and afterward Bryant offered us full four-year scholarships.

    I told him I was only interested in playing baseball, and he understood. Years later, when I was managing Knoxville in the Southern Association, Bryant's son was the general manager of the Birmingham team in the league. On our first trip to Birmingham, the visiting clubhouse man came to me and said, "There's a guy outside with a hat who wants to see you" It was Bryant. A few years after that, he came to visit me again in Boston when I was managing the Red Sox and one of his former 'Bama quarterbacks, Butch Hobson, was my third baseman.

    I often thought about how funny it was to become friends with Bryant, even though I never played for him. I just wanted to play baseball and the sooner I got my career underway the better. Naturally, my first preference was to play for my hometown team, the Reds, and they kept telling me how much they wanted me. Their local scout, Buzz Boyle, invited me out to Crosley Field on a number of occasions and I got to know all the Reds players at the time, as well as their manager, Johnny Neun.

    At the same time, Cliff Alexander, the football coach at our rival Woodward High, was a bird dog scout for the Dodgers, and one day he came to me and told me he'd like to take me to Brooklyn for a tryout. I told the Reds about it and Johnny Neun got half-hot and called my dad and said, "We've been recruiting him, you can't let him go to Brooklyn!" My dad assured him I wouldn't sign in New York.

    When I got to Brooklyn and reported to Ebbets Field, George Sisler, the Hall of Fame first baseman, was conducting the tryout as the director of minor league operations for the Dodgers. Mind you, Sisler was a legend, a lifetime .340 hitter, and when I got up to bat for the first time, he was leaning on the cage behind me, a real imposing figure. The last thing I wanted to do was to swing and miss. So I choked up on the bat and started spraying the ball all over the field. After that first round, Cliff Alexander came over and said to me: "Where did you come up with that new style of hitting?" I told him I just wanted to make contact for Sisler. He looked at me and shook his head. "When we come back here tomorrow," he said, "go back to your old swing. I told him you were a power hitter and he's wondering where the power is."

    Well, the next day I hit three or four balls out of the ballpark and Branch Rickey, the Dodger president, was there to watch it. After the tryout, he said, "We'll offer you $2,500 to sign a contract with us." Because my dad had promised the Reds I wouldn't sign anything in New York, I went home to Cincinnati and told the Reds of the Dodger offer. They said to me: "We can't offer you that, but we'll give you $2,000 and start you off in Class-B ball instead of Class D where the Dodgers will start you." They came up with the weakest excuse for not giving me the same money, saying "We're not sure if your arm is big league caliber." They'd been courting me two years, watching me play quarterback and shortstop, and if there's one thing they knew about me it was that my arm was my best attribute.

    So I had no trouble saying no to my hometown team and signing with the Dodgers. As promised, they started me out at their lowest rung, a Class-D farm team in Cambridge, Maryland. I'd like to say I wasted no time in making the Reds look bad, but it didn't quite work out that way. In fact, my first experience in professional baseball was probably more embarrassing to the Dodgers.

    I reported to Cambridge in 1949 with a salary of $150 per month—$2,550 for the whole season. I bought a used green Ford coupe with a stick shift for $700 and, yeah, I thought I was a real hot potato.

    In only my fourth game I made Eastern Shore League history. It was the last year of the league's existence and I probably did as much as anyone to hasten its shutdown. We played in a very primitive old ballpark in which the infield was full of bumps and ruts. In this particular game, I was playing shortstop and our pitcher was a guy named Zeke Zeisz, who was the only veteran on the team.

    The first ground ball to me hit a rut and struck me in the shoulder before continuing on into left field. The next ball to come my way hit me in the neck and also wound up in left field. Now, there was a pop fly hit into shallow left. I went out and the left fielder came in. But when the left fielder gave up on the ball, it came down and bounced off my glove. I couldn't believe what was happening to me, but I shrugged it off, chalking it up to the field conditions and circumstances beyond my control.

    The next inning, another hard ground ball was hit to me at short and this time I fielded it cleanly. Unfortunately, in my elation of finally catching something that came my way, I threw the ball across the diamond two feet over the first baseman's head and off the front of an outhouse that was behind first base. You've heard the old expression "He went from the penthouse to the shithouse"? Well that pretty much describes my introduction to professional baseball.

    After the game, I was walking off the field behind Zeisz and our third baseman, Hank Parker. I heard Zeisz say, "What the hell kind of shortstop is that guy? He can't play a lick!" Parker replied, "He was playing high school ball six days ago. Give the kid a break!" I never forgot that vote of confidence.

    Meanwhile, I had arranged to have the newspapers sent home to my father in Cincinnati, and a couple of days later I got a phone call from him. All he said was: "Well, it didn't take you long to break a record. Six errors in one game? According to the paper, nobody ever did that before in that league!"

    I finished my first pro season with numbers that hardly gave hint of a future in the big leagues—a .227 batting average, four homers in 304 at bats, and 27 errors. I half-expected the Dodgers to release me, but the next year they sent me to Hornell, New York, a little railroad town in the PONY League, another Class-D affiliate. We played in a tiny little ballpark right next to the railroad and it was filled every night. I don't know if it was the enthusiastic crowds or just the year's experience, but I had a real breakout season there. I hit .315 and led the league in runs scored with 146 and homers with 23. I also knocked in 122 runs in 123 games and stole home 10 times! We had a big Cuban left fielder named Oscar Sierra who couldn't run a lick but hit nothing but line drives. I'd get on base, steal second and third, and Sierra would knock me in. I stole 63 bases all told. Charlie Neal, who would later go with me to the big leagues, was also on that team, playing second and third.

    The next year I reported to Vero Beach looking forward to seeing if I could make a higher level. There were over 700 players in spring training as the Dodgers had 23 farm teams back then. They sent me to Elmira of the Class-A Eastern League. The jump from Class D to Class A was one of the biggest ever made by a player in the Dodger organization. This was when they began talking about me as the Dodgers' shortstop successor to Pee Wee Reese.

    I was in pretty select company. At that time, the Dodgers had six other shortstops in their organization—Eddie Miksis, Tommy Brown, Rocky Bridges, Billy Hunter, Chico Carrasquel, and Jim Pendleton—who all wound up in the big leagues. I might add, none of them—including me—was ever able to replace Pee Wee. There's a reason Pee Wee's in the Hall of Fame. He was a great shortstop for a long, long time.

    Over the winter, between the 1950 and '51 seasons, my older brother Harold, who we called Junior, asked me if I could get him a tryout with the Dodgers. Harold was a pretty good hitter and might have been a better ballplayer than I was. He just didn't really have a position. So I made a call to the Dodgers' farm director, Fresco Thompson, who agreed to pay Harold's expenses to Vero Beach for spring training. When he got there, he quickly showed them he had a good bat, and the Dodgers signed him to a contract.

    I had wanted Harold to go to Hornell, after the great experience I'd had there the year before, but for some reason he was intent on going to the Dodgers' other Class-D team in Hazard, Kentucky, in the Mountain States League, managed by a fellow named Max Macon. Macon had played about 200 games in the major leagues as an outfielder and pitcher in the '40s for the Dodgers and Braves before embarking on a minor league managing career. The word among most of the Dodger farmhands was that he wasn't a particularly good guy to play for and not many of them liked him. In addition, Macon was an icon in Hazard (if there is such a thing as an icon in Hazard), having won the Mountain States League batting title the year before with a .392 average.

    It was obvious Macon, who was only a couple of years removed from the major leagues, was a man playing among children in this Class-D league comprised mostly of teenagers fresh off the high school sandlots. Nevertheless, the folks of Hazard showered him with gifts after the season, and as my brother was to find out, this was a little perk old Max wasn't about to have threatened.

    A few weeks into the 1951 season for Hazard, my brother was hitting .336 with nine homers in 37 games. Macon was beginning to feel threatened by his presence and one day slapped Harold with a $25 fine for missing a sign or something. In those days $25 was like a month's meal money. When Harold appealed to Macon about the fine being excessive and more than he could possibly pay, he was told, "That's too bad, you're gonna pay it." That's when my brother pinned Macon up against the wall. The next day, Harold was sent to Ponca City, Oklahoma, where he finished up the season. He might have continued on and even made the big leagues, but the whole Max Macon experience soured my brother toward professional baseball and he just quit. That winter, however, he told me about a pitcher he'd met in Hazard who, he said, would be pitching in the majors the next year.

    "You must be nuts," I said. "You're talking about somebody going from Class-D ball to the majors! Nobody does that!"

    "This guy will," Harold said. "You mark my words. He's that good!"

    The pitcher he was talking about was Johnny Podres, who was 21-3 at Hazard and led the league in strikeouts (228 in 200 innings) and ERA (1.67). For 1952, the Dodgers moved Podres all the way up to Triple A at Montreal and, sure enough, by the end of the season he was in Brooklyn. To stay, I might add.

    I had another good season at Elmira; the highlight being getting married to Jean Bauerle, my high school sweetheart, at home plate. It was a real baseball ceremony, with my teammates holding bats over our heads as we took our vows, and if Soot didn't know before what kind of life she was getting herself into, she certainly knew now.

    My progression through the Dodger minor league system toward Brooklyn was fast and steady. I hit .319 at Mobile in 1952, prompting the Dodgers to send me to St. Paul, their Triple-A affiliate, for the 1953 season. I was only 22 years old and one step away from the big leagues.

    Actually, there was a time that spring when I thought I might even start the season with the Dodgers. I had had a helluva spring and Charlie Dressen, the Dodger manager, really took a liking to me, especially after I stole third base in a Grapefruit League game against the Reds when the Cincinnati pitcher, Kent Peterson, never bothered to check me at second base. "That's the way to do it!" I heard Charlie yelling on the bench.

    I got to go north with the Dodgers as they barnstormed their way through the South, playing exhibition games in Jacksonville, Knoxville, and Louisville. Finally, when we got to Washington, Charlie called me to his room and said, "Kid, you deserved to make the team, but we're going to send you to St. Paul where you can play every day. If something happens to Pee Wee, I promise you'll be here."

    And after the year I was having at St. Paul, I really believed it was just a matter of time before the Dodgers would call me up. Little did I know, I was going to be closer to death than the big leagues in a couple of weeks. By the first week of July, I was hitting .300 and battling Wally Post, a future slugger for the Reds, and Al Smith, who went on to a fine career with the Indians, White Sox, and Orioles, for the American Association home run title. We were finishing up a homestand against the Yankees' Kansas City farm team and I hit three homers against a lefthander named Bob Wiesler. That put me up by five over Post and Smith as we went on the road.

    The first stop was Columbus where we had a twi-night doubleheader against the Cardinals' top farm team. A big righthander named Jim Kirk was pitching the first game for Columbus. I remember as I came up the first time against him there was a bunch of trees in center field that didn't have many leaves on them and it was tough picking up the ball. The first pitch from Kirk was a ball up close to my head and I turned to the catcher and said, "I didn't see that ball too good, did you?" His reply was that between the trees in center field and the twilight it was hard to see. Sure enough, the next pitch hit me right square in the left side of the head and I went down like a KO'd boxer.

    The next thing I knew, Clay Bryant, our manager, was standing over me. I said to him, "Am I bleeding?" And he said ,"No, Zim, just lie still, you're okay" But I was anything but okay. The ball had fractured my skull and that led to blood clots forming on my brain which required spinal taps every two or three days afterward in order to monitor my condition. Bryant's reassuring words were all I remembered until I woke up in White Cross Hospital six days later.

    My wife and my parents were standing there at my bedside, looking down at me and, to me, it looked like three each of them. I was seeing triple! Then I tried to say something and found out I couldn't speak either! My wife began to explain to me what had happened. Like I said, my skull had been fractured and there had been a blood clot on the left side. After first thinking I'd have a quick and full recovery, the doctors realized it was a lot worse. I had been hit on the side of the brain that was my speech center. They had to drill three holes in the left side of my skull to relieve the pressure, but when my condition didn't improve, a couple of days later they drilled another hole in the right side of my skull. People think I've got a metal plate in my head—that's always been the story—but the fact is they filled those holes up with what they call tantalum buttons that act kind of like corks in a bottle. I can therefore truthfully state that all of those players who played for me through the years and thought I sometimes managed like I had a hole in my head were wrong. I actually have four holes in my head!

    The doctor would come in every day and test my reflexes with a rubber mallet and a needle to my foot. Day after day, I didn't feel anything when he moved the needle to the right side of my foot, and I was really scared. My father, who owned a wholesale fruit and vegetable company in Cincinnati, made the trip to Columbus every day to offer me encouragement. Finally, I began to regain some feeling, and each day Soot, who was now pregnant with our daughter, Donna, would help me walk around the hospital corridors. To help restore my eyesight, the doctors fit my head with a brace so I couldn't turn it and had me do eye exercises, identifying objects by moving them back and forth in front of my eyes. After a few weeks of that, my sight was almost back to normal, but I had developed a stutter in my speech. The doctors also had me taking anti-convulsion pills. In the meantime, my weight had dropped from 170 to 124. All I could think about was what was going to happen to my career.

    Then one day, the Dodgers' front office chiefs, general manager Buzzie Bavasi and farm director Fresco Thompson, came to the hospital to check out my condition and offer their encouragement. They told me not to worry about playing baseball anymore. There would always be a job in the Dodger organization for me. That was the last thing I wanted to hear. I was only 22 years old and I was in the midst of my best season ever. I couldn't think about not playing anymore. Just the suggestion from them that I might not ever play again gave me the incentive to prove everybody wrong.

    After I was released from the hospital, they held a special day for me in St. Paul in September and I received dozens of telegrams from well-wishers. Two of them in particular were special and I still have them. The first one was from the Columbus Redbirds team and it read: "Congratulations to a great player on this your day. St. Paul will be missing its greatest shortstop next year when you're playing for the Dodgers." The second one read simply: "Please accept my heartiest congratulations. I know your courage will continue to make your baseball career a bright one." It was signed, Jim Kirk.

    You can be sure I thought back on all of this when I was lying on that trainer's table in the Yankee clubhouse all these years later after getting beaned by Knoblauch's line drive. Happily, my recovery from this one was considerably faster. I was back in the dugout a couple of innings later and the first thing I said to Joe was, "What the hell was wrong with you? Why didn't you catch that ball? You've got hands like meat hooks!"

    Joe just looked at me and laughed. When I came into the Yankee clubhouse the next day after this latest beaning, there was this big hat-box in my locker. I opened it up and there is this old army helmet. It wasn't a replica. It was the real thing. Well, I looked around the clubhouse trying to decide who the culprit was who put this thing here. First, I thought it was Mel Stottletmyre, our pitching coach, who's a big prankster. Then I figured it was probably Jeter who's always doing things to me, like rubbing my head. So I put the helmet on and walked over to Jeter's locker and said, "Did you give me this thing? Well, I'm wearing it now!" Jeter laughed and said, "No sir. Not me." Then George walked into the clubhouse and saw me standing there with the helmet on my head and started laughing. "Well" he said, "I guess the helmet's cheaper than Plexiglass. But you don't have the guts to wear that thing in the dugout."

    That's all I had to hear. When we went out to the dugout for the start of the game, I sat the helmet down between Joe and myself. We got the Rangers out in the top of the first and Knoblauch walked past me to the bat rack to lead off for us. As he passed in front of me, I said, "Do you have any objections if I wear this since you popped me last night?" "Hell no" he said.

    Well, as I said, it seems like everybody in America saw me wearing that helmet, and after the game, both my son, Tommy, and my daughter called and asked me for it. Since then, people have offered me thousands of dollars for it. How crazy is this game? Sixty years after mining that Babe Ruth ball, I get whacked in the head and make an old army helmet worth almost as much!

    I later found out the person who sent it to me was not Stottlemyre or Jeter but, rather, an advertising executive named Michael Patti who was at the game and went out and bought the helmet at a military surplus store on a whim. Patti was quoted in the papers a couple of days later as saying he was a huge Yankee fan who hated me when I was manager of the Red Sox, but now that I was with the Yankees he'd come to like me.

    As much attention as all this got, I'd like to think I've been involved in a lot more significant events in my baseball career. For instance, if it wasn't for me departing the premises the Dodgers might never have won the 1955 World Series. Everybody remembers it was Sandy Amoros who made the saving catch off Yogi Berra in the seventh game that year. But Amoros was only in the game because our manager, Walter Alston, had the foresight to insert him in left field at the start of that inning as a defensive replacement. Jim Gilliam had been playing in left and moved to second base. The player who came out of the game for Amoros was me. I've always said the Dodgers would never have won their only World Series in Brooklyn if Alston hadn't had the good sense to take me out of the game.

    Looking back, I can't believe how fortunate I've been to find myself a part of so much baseball history across seven decades—not to mention 46 years between two beanings. There was another beaning in between, too—which, looking back, was probably the worst of the three. I'll tell you about that after I tell you how I got my career re-started from the first one.

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Table of Contents

Prologue
Foreword
Acknowledgments
1 Who Am I and How Did I Get Here? 1
2 Dodger Blue 13
3 Cubs to Casey to Home 47
4 From Washington Senator to Foreign Correspondent 61
5 Back to the Bushes 77
6 No Day at the Beach 95
7 Banned in Boston 107
8 A Real Texas Gusher 143
9 Billybrawl and Two Reunions 161
10 My Kind of Town 187
11 A Red Sox Redux and a "Rockie" Retirement 211
12 I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy 229
Index 279
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Read - A Baseball Lifer

    Don Zimmer is just a classic, old school baseball guy and he provides a number of great stories from his entire career. He is very complimentary of the majority of folks he met along the way and when he discusses someone he did not care for, he holds nothing back. Zim easily could have become bitter over the years due to various injuries (notably from being beaned!) Just seems like he hustled and made his career continue through hard work, dedication and a clear ability to have great friendships with a large number of baseball people. This was a great read for any baseball fan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2006

    A True Baseball Legend

    Don Zimmer, to me is a true baseball legend. He has been involved in the game of baseball his whole life. He started out in the lowest level of the minor leagues, Class D, where he had a little, but not much success. The next year, after attending a Dodgers tryout, he was called up to Class A. No player had ever made that jump in the Dodgers organization. There he encountered the first of his beanings. Zimmer was hit in the head by three pitches in his career, one of which was life threatening. He was in a coma for six days, and he nearly died. He had to learn how to walk and talk again. This was thought to be the end of the road for Zimmer, but it was not. He came back to play baseball, a little tentative at first, but he came back to stay. Soon after he started playing Class A ball again, he was called up to the majors. This was his shot, and he told himself that he was never going to go back to the minors, which he didn¿t. After playing for several different teams, he quit playing baseball. He would not leave the game though. He would coach and manage teams for the remainder of his baseball career. He was very successful, he won four tiles when coaching alongside Joe Torre with the Yankees. This book moved me in many ways. He was faced with a near death experience, and he fought through it and came back and finished his playing carrier. This shows tremendous heart, and not all baseball players have that, Zimmer, in my eyes, has the biggest. Another message that I got from this book, is that Zimmer did not stay involved in the game of baseball purely for the money, he stayed because he loved the game with all of his heart. This was good to hear, because now a days, that is not always the case. In the end, Zimmer has a really good life story to tell, and it will change the way any baseball fan will look at life. Some dislikes I had about this book is that some topics that are talked about, take way to long to read through. Once or twice, I found myself skipping some pages, just to get on to the next chapter, because I understood the point Zimmer was trying to get across. This book should be read by any baseball fan, because it is very inspiring, and it reveals what the game of baseball should really be like. Every time I see a baseball game, I now think about every aspect of the game, and why the game should really be played. Don Zimmer¿s story moved me, and it changed the way I think about baseball, and if you love the game of baseball, this book is for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2002

    Bill Lee 'Once a Gerbil, Always a Gerbil'

    Although it is now fashionable with the alternative community to play with Gerbil's, Zim was a trend setter, taking a liking to Gerbils so much, it became his moniker in Boston. I think the plate in his head is becoming rusty.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2001

    A must for any real baseball fan!

    This was a very detailed book into the life of someone who has been in and knocked around baseball for the past 50 years. It was great from start to finish. I couldn't put it down as I believe it tells the truth of baseball then and now. I liked hearing the real side to baseball! A must for any fan young and old!

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