The Zen of Zim: Baseballs, Beanballs and Bosses
. Don Zimmer with Bill Madden. New York: Thomas Dunne Books. 2004. 241 pages, 16 pages of black and white photos, no index. ISBN 0312334303. Available from Amazon.com for $11.20.
If you want to get the dirt on George Steinbrunner, this is the book to read. Don Zimmer, bench coach for the Yankees, who sat beside Joe Torre on four championship teams, left the Yankees after the 2003 season on less than amicable terms with its owner, and in this book he reveals the reasons why.
Zimmer follows up his 2002 biography, *Zim, A Baseball Life*, with this memoir of the 2003 season. Assisted again by co-writer Bill Madden, Zimmer pours out his anger and hurt at his treatment by the Yankee owner during that year, from snubs, to the incident with his company car, to the cancellation of his bobble-head night. At the end of it one really wonders why anyone would work for Steinbrenner.
Zim then moves on to the events of the 2003 ALCS, which culminated in his being thrown to the ground by Pedro Martinez after he had charged the pitcher. Zim accepts full blame for that incident, though he makes his opinion of Martinez’ antics prior to his ill-advised rush known. But he uses this as a springboard to go back in time to his own long tenure asa a journeyman player, and coach. For Zimmer was almost killed by a bean ball as a young player, and played against such pitching headhunters as Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson.
As Zimmer says, “Friends of mine have told me I remind them of that 120-year-old Indian in the movie *Little Big Man* who sits there and reflects on all the history he’s lived through. I never saw the movie – I don’t go to movies – but I can certainly relate to that as far as my baseball experience are concerned.”
Zimmer himself was never a star, but he played with them, (Jackie Robinson and Pee-Wee Reese on the 1955 Dodgers team, against them, and coached them. His knowledge of the intricacies of baseball and baseball history are second to none, and he shares several stories here. We’re also treated to a chapter written by his wife, Soot, on what it’s like to be married to a career baseball man.
The photographs are fun but a couple of them could have been better- we’re treated to a team photo of the 1955 Brooklyn Dogers, with no names given, least of all Don Zimmer’s. There’s a photo of “the Brooklyn Dodgers parad[ing] through their favorite borough,” again with no one identified. Among other photos are ones of Zimmer with Ted Williams; Zimmer with Yogi Berra, Tommy LaSorda, and President Gerald Ford; Zimmer and Bear Bryant (got to love the man’s sense of style), and also the one of Pedro Martinez rolling him to the ground during the 1993 ALCS.
Zimmer ends his memoirs on a happy note, accepting a position offered by Lou Piniella to help out with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It’s a fun read. Recommended.