Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Zim's Last Dinger

Don "Zip" Zimmer has died, word arrives tonight.  Former Dodger player, original Met, Red Sox manager and Yankees coach.  Sparking this memory: 

Oddly, for all my baseball fanaticism, and writing (see: "Joy in Mudville" etc.), I haven't spent much time at spring training.  One magazine assignment around 1980 took me to Vero Beach and Dodgertown, to interview former Yankees outfielder Roy White--then with the Yomuri Giants of Tokyo.  Got a chance to meet home run kind Sadaharu Oh, the team's manager, and had dinner with Roy.

Around the same time: Went to Miami to interview Earl Weaver and star pitcher (and underwear model) Jim Palmer for a big magazine story. Earl was talking about fellow manager Don Zimmer and I thought I'd shock Earl by telling him I'd seen Zim's final home run--at Hyde Park Stadium around 1968 after the Buffalo Bisons moved to my native Niagara Falls for a couple years due to rioting in Buffalo. 

 Zim was manager of the Bisons, I was covering the game (still in college) for the Niagara Falls Gazette, and fat old Zim had to activate himself for the game due to injuries to players. And he hits a dinger over the ancient brick wall! So I tell Weaver this and he just laughs. "That was against my team," he said, and I recalled he managed the Orioles' farm team in Rochester then. "And you know who he hit it off? PALMER." Then he nearly collapsed in laughter, as did I.

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