Jacques Barzun once wrote that “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” I’m not sure that was ever true … but if you want to know baseball’s heart, mind, and soul, you had better learn Don Zimmer.
“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. Not that Torre has to ask; Zimmer managed nearly two thousand major league games himself and isn’t shy with the suggestions, which is why Torre hired him in the first place.