"Baseball is forever poorer with the passing of Don Zimmer, one of the game's all-time good will ambassadors, humorists and raconteurs who began his travelogue career as a Dodger in Brooklyn, surviving two near-fatal beanings, and went on to be an original '62 Met, a Washington Senator, manager of two storied franchises, the (Boston) Red Sox and (Chicago) Cubs, and finally Joe Torre's bench coach for four (New York) Yankee world championship teams.
"Zimmer, 83, died early Wednesday evening at Day Care Alliance Hospital in Dunedin, Fla. where he had been for the past few weeks after first undergoing a heart valve surgery and then being diagnosed with fibrosis on his lungs. He had also been having dialysis treatments for the last couple of years.
"'He was my best friend in life,' said Jim Leyland, former Tigers manager. 'I called him three or four times a day. He took a liking to me years ago when he was a coach with the Yankees and we became fast friends.
"'There is no better person in life than Don Zimmer was.'
"Zimmer leaves behind his wife Soot, whom he married at home plate Aug. 16, 1951 before a minor league game in Elmira, N.Y., a son Tom, a daughter, Donna, four grandchildren, thousands of baseball friends and millions of racetrack tickets, cashed or otherwise.
"'I hired him as coach, and he became like a family member to me,' said former Yankees manager and current MLB executive vice president Joe Torre.
"'He has certainly been a terrific credit to the game. 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.'
"Like everyone else in Major League Baseball, I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend Don Zimmer,' MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. 'One of our game's most universally-beloved figures. A memorable contributor to baseball for more than 60 years, Don was the kind of person you could only find in the National Pastime...'
"'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 (fans) throughout our game.'"
"Mr. Zimmer, a 50-plus year resident of Pinellas County, had been dealing with an increasing number of health problems. He had a minor stroke in 2008, was receiving dialysis treatment three days a week over the last several years and was having increasing trouble geting around due to shortness of breath and fatigue.
"Mr. Zimmer underwent April 16 heart surgery to repair a leaky valve but had remained hospitalized and on a ventilator due to fibrosis in his lungs. He died at 6:50 p.m. Wednesday at Baycare Alliant Hospital in Dunedin after his blood pressure dropped.
"His wife, Soot, had just shaved him and left for dinner after spending the day at his side, as she had every day. Services are pending, possibly this weekend."
MLB.com's Marty Noble wrote about Zimmer's on-field achievements on June 4.
"In 12 seasons and 3,283 at-bats with the Dodgers, Mets and four other teams, he produced a .235 batting average, 91 home runs and 352 RBIs. He was a one-time All-Star, with the Cubs in 1961, and participated -- barely -- in the two World Series with the Dodgers, in Brooklyn in 1955 and in Los Angeles in '59.
"The teams he managed -- the (San Diego) Padres, Red Sox, (Texas) Rangers, (Chicago) Cubs, and on an interim basis, the Yankees of 1999 -- produce a composite .509 winning percentage in 1,780 games and one first-place finish in 14 seasons.
"Interspersed with his seasons as a manager were 26 years of coaching that began with (the Montreal) Expos in 1971, took him to Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, Boston, the North Side of Chicago, the Bronx and ended in 2006 in Tampa Bay."