Longtime baseball fixture Don Zimmer dies at 83

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“On behalf of Major League Baseball and the many clubs that ‘Popeye’ served in a distinguished baseball life, I extend my deepest condolences to Don’s family, friends and his many admirers throughout our game,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

Zimmer’s biggest admirer was his wife “Soot” - they were married at home plate during a minor league game in 1951. Two years later in the minors, Zimmer’s path took a frightening turn - he was beaned by a fastball and left in a coma, and doctors had to put metal screws in his head.

He recovered well enough to wear a lot of uniforms during his 56 years in the majors. He played for the Dodgers, Mets, Cubs, Cincinnati and Washington. He managed San Diego, Boston, Texas and the Cubs.

“Probably the best baseball man I knew,” Connors said.

Yankees executive Hank Steinbrenner echoed that sentiment.

“I loved Zim. I loved his passion. He was a great, great guy. He was a great baseball guy,” he told the AP. “Everybody loved him.”

Steinbrenner, son of late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, said Torre and Zimmer were the “perfect team” during New York’s run that brought four titles in a five-year span.

“Joe was low-keyed. Zim would get fired up. He was a bench coach for real,” Steinbrenner said. “He was an extremely important part of the 1990s success.”

Zimmer hit 91 home runs and had 352 RBIs in 12 seasons. He started Game 7 when Brooklyn beat the Yankees for the 1955 crown and was an All-Star in 1961.

The next year, he played under Stengel on the 1962 expansion Mets, who famously went 40-120.

“Don’t blame them all on me,” Zimmer once said. “I got traded after the first 30 days.”

Zimmer was the 1989 NL Manager of the Year with the Cubs and was at Yankee Stadium for three perfect games, by Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series and by David Cone and David Wells in the late 1990s.

“It’s a sad day for the game of baseball,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said after a 3-2 loss at San Diego. “Don impacted lives from the time he put a uniform on in the minor leagues until today.”

Zimmer is survived by his wife; son Thomas, a scout with the San Francisco Giants; daughter Donna, and four grandchildren.

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