Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Player and Manager: Don Zimmer

Over the years there have been several Cubs players that have gone on to become the manager of the team. From time to time I will take a look at these dual role Cubs.

Today Don Zimmer is an icon of baseball, serving as Senior Baseball Advisor for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He has worked in organized baseball for 60 years! Several of those years were spent in Cubs pinstripes.

As a player, Zimmer spent two seasons with the Cubs, who acquired him in a trade with the Dodgers for three players. His two years in Chicago were his two most active years, playing in career high 132 and 128 games. He hit around .250 each year, which is 15 points higher than his career average. But he was left unprotected by the Cubs in the 1962 expansion draft and the Mets snapped him up.

Topps 1961, Zimmer's only Cubs card as a player

Popeye returned to Chicago 23 years later as a coach under his lifelong friend Jim Frey, who was named Cubs manager for the 1984 season. Zimmer was an agressive third base coach and the team won the NL East and went to the post-season for the first time since 1945. When Frey was fired in 1986, Zimmer left the team too.

Jim Frey returned to the Cubs as general manager in the fall of 1987 and one of his first moves was to name Don Zimmer as manager. The Cubs were Zimmer's fourth managerial assignment, previously leading San Diego, Texas, and Boston.

The 1988 Cubs finished about where expected, in 4th place with a 77-85 record. Expectations for the '89 team weren't much better. But the "Boys of Zimmer" somehow managed 93 wins and won the NL East. This was the only time a Zimmer-led team made the post season. The 1990 team fell back to a 77-85 record. After a slow start in 1991, Jim Frey was forced to fire Don Zimmer.

Topps 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991 cards of Manager Don ZImmer

Zimmer never managed again, although he has since served as a coach with several teams.

Although he may be associated more with other franchises, his best years as a player and his only crown as a manager happened with the Cubs.


  1. the best jowls in baseball !

  2. His book was great. A fascinating man.

  3. As a big fan of Popeye, and creator of the website, I applaud this entry!