Emotional Yankees, Rays, others in MLB pay tribute to late Don Zimmer

June 05, 2014 - 7:05 am

The entire MLB community is reeling at the news of baseball icon Don Zimmer'€™s death. Zimmer, who spent 66 years in baseball as a player, coach and executive, impacted many during his MLB career. "Great baseball man. A baseball lifer. Was a mentor to me," said a tearful Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Zimmer served as the bench coach of the Yankees for eight years, winning four World Series during his tenure in the Bronx. "I hired him as a coach, and he became like a family member to me. He has certainly been a terrific credit to the game," said former Yankees manager Joe Torre in a statement. "The game was his life. And his passing is going to create a void in my life and my wife Ali's. We loved him. The game of baseball lost a special person tonight. He was a good man." The news of Zimmer'€™s passing hit Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter particularly hard. Jeter'€™s first full season as starting shortstop for New York coincided with Zimmer'€™s first season as bench coach in 1996. "That'€™s a tough one to swallow,"€ Jeter said after his team's 7-4 loss to the A'€™s Wednesday night. "€œEveryone knows how much Zim has meant, not only to our organization, but to baseball as a whole. Your thoughts and prayers go out to his family. That'€™s tough news. I found out halfway through the game. That'€™s a rough one." Jeter added: '€œ'€œHe'€™s someone that taught me a lot about the game. €œHe'€™s been around and he'€™s pretty much seen everything. His stories, his experiences, he was close to my family and good to my family. We'€™ll miss him." Zimmer served as a senior adviser for the Rays from 2004 until his death, quickly becoming a favorite amongst players and especially the Tampa Bay coaching staff. "We lost a good buddy tonight," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "I'm going to miss his advice ... his feistiness and fire. He was about winning, doing whatever it takes to win." Rays third base coach Tom Foley has been wearing Zimmer'€™s No. 66 jersey as tribute this season to Zimmer'€™s lasting legacy. "He had a lot of stories, a lot of history coming out of him," Foley said after the game. "He had a lot to give, a lot to offer and he did." After Tampa Bay'€™s 5-4 loss to the Marlins Wednesday, the team hung Zimmer'€™s jersey in the team clubhouse.

Zimmer found success both as a player and coach, as "Popeye," as he was commonly known, was an All-Star for Chicago in 1961 while later winning the 1989 NL Manager of the Year award with the same club. "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," said MLB commissioner Bud Selig in a statement. Zimmer, who played for the Dodgers, Mets, Cubs, Reds and Washington Senators and later served as manager for the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs, impacted MLB players throughout his 66 years in the game. "Zim was a very special person to all of us. A very special person in baseball, period,"€ said Rays pitcher David Price. "He always lit everybody's faces up whenever he'd walk in. Zim had a passion for baseball that rubs off on everybody." "It's a sad day for the game of baseball,'€" said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "Don impacted lives from the time he put a uniform on in the minor leagues until today." Many other MLB figures and clubs took to Twitter to pay their respects to Zimmer: