Hat tip to Jay Jaffe, who tweeted this out a bit ago. It’s from Scott Raab at Esquire from 2001. He spent a couple of days with Zimmer at his home near Tampa during the 2000-01 offseason and got a true taste of the man.
The thing about Zimmer: he became something of a mascot in his later years in the mind of many people, but he was never that. Sure, he was colorful, but that whole “sweet old funny Zimmer” thing is only part of the story. He was a sure-thing shortstop prospect until he had two vicious beanings that derailed his career before it really got going. He was often thought of as a bit of a comedian when he payed, but was a gruff figure as a manager. Then the latter years as coach.
But as a person, he sounds like someone you just want to be around. A sharp guy with sharp humor but something simmering underneath that only people with true character have:
“I’m a bench coach,” Zim says. “Thirty years ago, there was no such thing–you were a coach. Now they got a title for a bench coach, which is a joke. People say, What is the job of a bench coach? I say, Very simple–I sit next to Torre on the bench. When he plays hit-and-run that works, I say, ‘Nice goin’, Skipper,’ and if it doesn’t work, I go down to the other end of the bench, get a drink, and get out of his way. We only got one manager. I don’t want no credit for doin’ anything. I sit next to Joe like a bump on a log–that’s the way I leave it.”
The truth is this: Joe Torre doesn’t make a move without asking Zimmer what he thinks.
Just a fantastic story that, even 13 years before the subject’s death, serves as a wonderful remembrance.