Zimmer, 83, has been in baseball -- in some capacity -- from the time he was 18 years old. He broke into the major leagues as a player in 1954 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. His career lasted 12 seasons and he saw time with the Dodgers (Brooklyn and Los Angeles), Cubs, Mets, Reds and Senators. He also spent time as a player in Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Japan.
"Like everyone in Major League Baseball, I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend Don Zimmer, one of our game’s most universally beloved figures," commissioner Bud Selig said of Zimmer. "A memorable contributor to Baseball for more than 60 years, Don was the kind of person you could only find in the National Pastime.
"As a player, Don experienced the joys of the 1955 World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers and the struggles of the '62 Mets. In his managerial and coaching career, this unique baseball man led the Cubs to a division crown and then, at his good friend Joe Torre's loyal side, helped usher in a new era in the fabled history of the Yankees. 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 admirers throughout our game."
He was a manager in the minor leagues before helming the San Diego Padres in 1972, the first of his 13 years as a major league manager. In addition to the Padres, he coached the Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs, finishing with an 885-858 record, good for a .508 winning percentage. He's been a senior advisor to the Rays since 2004.
He might be best remembered by the current generation of baseball fans for the incident involving Pedro Martinez in the 2003 American League Championship Series, where he was thrown to the ground.
Torre, who worked with Zimmer in New York, also issued a statement.
"I hired him as a coach, and he became like a family member to me. He has certainly been a terrific credit to the game. The game was his life," Torre said. "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."
Zimmer was a resilient sort, recovering from stroke-like symptoms during the 1995 season and undergoing surgery to repair a leaky valve in his heart in April of this year. The Rays have carried Zimmer's jersey in the dugout with them for the majority of the 2014 season, with third base coach Tom Foley recently taking to wearing it out on the field during games, a practice he wasn't planning on stopping.
He is survived by his wife, Jean, son, Tom, daughter, Donna, and four grandchildren.