Baseball lifer Don Zimmer died on Wednesday at the age of 83, leaving behind many memories and stories of his ties to the game he loved.
Maybe it’s fitting, or perhaps it’s unfortunate, but when I think of Don Zimmer, I think of the old man who was a constant presence in the Yankees and Rays dugouts, and specifically about the time he got into a fight with Pedro Martinez during Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS and was tossed aside like a parking ticket:
Just a 72-year-old man getting into a scrap between two of the fiercest rivals in baseball history. Did that guy love the game and love his team or what?
Going back to a 2003 article about the incident, Zimmer was taken away to a hospital on a stretcher in an ambulance following the incident to be examined. He only had a cut on the bridge of his nose.
Pedro said he only pushed Zimmer down because the former manager came at him. He said at the time that he would never come hit Zimmer.
Speaking to the media six years after the incident, Pedro said he thought Zimmer was coming over to calm the situation but did the exact opposite.
“But his reaction was totally the opposite. (Zimmer) was trying to punch my mouth and told me a couple of bad words about my mom. I just had to react and defend myself,” Pedro said via the NY Daily News.
Zimmer also apologized for the incident.
“I said it myself the next day in a press conference,” Zimmer told the Daily News by phone from St. Petersburg in 2009. “I told the whole world I was wrong and that I was embarrassed by what I’d done and I apologized for it. I was definitely wrong and Pedro didn’t do nothing. I told the whole world that, even though the Yankees didn’t want me to hold a press conference because they were afraid I might say something to stir things up more.”
Zimmer was so fiery, the Yankees were worried he would stir it up again.
Zimmer won the 1955 World Series as a player with the Brooklyn Dodgers and later was on the historically embarrassing ’62 Mets. He was a part of 13 different franchises during his career in baseball, which spanned six decades.
MLB.com’s Marty Noble has a great writeup on Zimmer if you’re so inclined. Below, we’ve posted a video of Rays broadcaster Todd Kalas getting choked talking about Zimmer’s death. You can see how much Zimmer impacted the game: