We think of ballplayers and managers as famous people who are in the news all the time. And they are. But being “in the news” meant something very different until, oh, about 20 years ago. Now a baseball player’s name may show up in 3,258 Google News results a week. Before that, however, they’d be printed in the local paper once, maybe twice a day. If you played in a town with a couple of papers, your name could appear in maybe a half dozen articles a week.
Most of Don Zimmer’s 66 years in baseball happened in that latter era. And for many of them — when he was a player and then, after his managing career, when he just coached — he was never the center of the media universe. Really, the only time he got tons of ink, relatively speaking, were the thirteen years he was a manager, particularly the five years he was in Boston.
But his wife, Soot Zimmer kept track. Meticulously. She has scrapbooks of every clipping in which Don Zimmer ever appeared, and has kept it up since his death. Today the Tampa Bay Times has a story about her and her scrapbooking, and how the Rays’ recent efforts to honor Zimmer has kept her in the scrapbooking business even when she figured it was over with.
I like this story because it reminds us that, while we think of them as public figures, ballplayers are everyday people too, and have personal lives and personal connections that we very rarely think about. I think most of the bad discourse in sports comes as a result of us forgetting this basic humanity of people. Even and maybe especially those who are famous.