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Don Zimmer and the new life in Christ
Published: 6/27/2014 5:08:04 PM

 

June 4, 2014. In this blog, today is the day that we consider the life and career of a
baseball class-act who died this evening at the age of 83 in a hospital outside of Tampa,
Florida: Don Zimmer.

ESPN.com ran a nice article that summarized Zimmer’s career, and Scott van Pelt had
an honorable segment this evening on SportsCenter that summarized his impact on Major
League Baseball. I’m sure that in the days to come the league will provide many
remembrances and video segments to help fans honor someone who was professional
baseball.

And that is not an over-statement: Don Zimmer really was professional baseball. It is
incredible what sort of history this man took part in. He began his professional baseball
career with a minor league team for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 when he was only 18years-
old. He died in 2014 as a senior adviser for the Tamp Bay Rays. Of his 83 years as
a living, breathing, human person, 66 of those were spent involved in professional
baseball in some way.

Don Zimmer played on the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers as a
second baseman alongside Tommy Lasorda, Sandy Koufax, and Jackie Robinson…the
Jackie Robinson. He also was a member of the inaugural New York Mets roster in 1962,
though his tenure there was short lived. Before ending his career as a player in 1965 with
the Washington Senators, he returned to play a season for the Dodgers again after they
moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

He began his managing career in 1972 with the San Diego Padres, though his most
memorable moment as a manager was probably in 1978 when he managed players like
Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski in the ALCS against the New York Yankees, losing in
game 7 on a Boston home run by Bucky Dent.

After concluding his career as a manager, Zimmer continued as a bench coach, most
notably with the New York Yankees in the late 1990’s when they won four World Series
championships in five years. Though, the moment for which I will always remember Don
Zimmer is the 2003 ALCS game 3 when, as a bench coach for the Yankees, he got owned
by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.

All of this is to say, the man was professional baseball. For 66 years of his life he was
consumed by professional baseball. His life was epic. His impact on the game was stark.
His memory will be long-lasting. He was baseball.

These days, many covet the extent to which Zimmer was able to be something. We
want to contribute to something greater than ourselves, we want to productively use the
skills that we have gained throughout our lives, and we want to participate in something
that is both meaningful and important. Don Zimmer was able to do that. At 18-years-old
he was already on a good path toward accomplishing all of these goals. These days, most
people of my generation are only now beginning to sort through all of the possibilities
open to us. If we are lucky, then we might also be catching glimpses of what sort of
things we can get involved in that are both meaningful and important.

But to consider ourselves and our futures in such a way usually lends itself to
frustration and despair more than empowerment and success. Comparing ourselves to
successful, accomplished, and important people more often than not will encourage our
own sense of failure. ("Don Zimmer was only 18 when he first began playing professional baseball; I’m 26 and what have I done with my life?”) Efforts spent trying to
understand who we are and what we can do probably result in more confusion than
clarity. Though our results might be undesirable, our intentions are probably sincere. We
ask questions of ourselves and think about our place in life because we want to be of use
to the people, communities, and world around us.

Galatians 2:20 says "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but
Christ who lives in me.” Christ lives in me. The problem with trying to be something as
Don Zimmer was baseball is that usually we want to be something apart from the perfect
child of God that we were re-created to be. Usually, the important and meaningful goals
onto which we set our sights are not Christ. In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul
reminded them that to try to pursue for themselves anything above the pure forgiveness
and new life of Christ was a path toward failure. Instead, our new life, brought about
through the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in baptism, is Christ. There is
no longer any need for us to suffer over ourselves or agonize over these existential crises.
Instead, who we are has been determined for us. We are people who have been given
meaning.

To finish the verse, Paul continues, "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith
in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul tells us that to live a life
after crucifixion with Christ is to live Christ’s life. Christ loved us and gave himself for
us. The Holy Spirit continues this work through us; love others and give the Word of God
to others. What better way is there to be of service to the people, communities, and world
around us than to serve them with the Word of God and to effect in our communities and
in the world the transformative love of Christ? How can anything else that we do be more
important or meaningful?

Don Zimmer was baseball. He was an important figure for the sport and many find
his role in the history of the game to be quite meaningful. We don’t look for fulfillment in
these ultimately arbitrary human and self-imposed standards. In all that we do we live
according to what has been fulfilled for us by Jesus: forgiveness, new life, and
resurrection. No life is more important or meaningful than the life of Christ. It is no
longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Contributed by Ben Parviz

 

 

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