Don Zimmer, a revered figure in his 66 years in Major League Baseball, died Wednesday, less than two months after undergoing heart surgery.
He was 83.
Zimmer's colorful personality and a deep love of the game prompted him to say he never worked a day in his life, and commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement Wednedsay that Zimmer was "one of our game's most universally beloved figures."
He had a 12-year major league playing career, but rose to notoriety in more than 30 years as a coach, manager and advisor, most recently with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Zimmer was a senior advisor for the Rays and still suited up with the club during spring training.
He had been hospitalized since having heart surgery on April 16. His son Tom told the Tampa Bay Times that Zimmer "went peacefully."
Zimmer's health was not far from the Rays' minds. Third base coach Tom Foley took to wearing a jersey with Zimmer on the back in tribute to the ailing icon.
Tampa Bay was but a final stop on a true baseball odyssey, where Zimmer bounced from franchise to franchise before gaining a greater measure of fame as Joe Torre's right-hand man with the great New York Yankees teams of the 1990s.
"I hired him as a coach, and he became like a family member to me," Torre said in a statement released Wednesday night. "He has certainly been a terrific credit to the game. The game was his life. 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 broke in to the big leagues in 1954, with a Brooklyn Dodgers club featuring Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella.
His journeyman playing career ended in 1965, but Zimmer's time in the game was just beginning; he was a coach and player his final two seasons with the Washington Senators, starting him on a path that would make the jowly-cheeked coach a baseball lifer.
Zimmer served four stints as a major league manager, most recently with the Chicago Cubs from 1988-1991, but his greatest fame probably came when he joined the New York Yankees as a coach in 1996.
That, of course, was the season they won the first of four World Series titles in a five-year span.
He was beloved by Yankee players, most notably Derek Jeter, during his stint as Joe Torre's aide de camp. Zimmer often referred to Jeter as his "favorite pupil."
But his time with the club ended in unwanted notoriety, when Zimmer became involved in an on-field altercation between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and Zimmer, stunningly, charged at Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez, who saw no choice but to usher the then-72-year-old Zimmer to the turf.
After that season, he was forced out of his job as bench coach, though it was termed a resignation, Zimmer famously saying he was "tired of being treated like a dog" by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Said current Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner Wednesday: "Don spent a lifetime doing what he loved. He was an original—a passionate, old-school, one-of-a-kind baseball man who contributed to a memorable era in Yankees history. The baseball community will certainly feel this loss. On behalf of our organization, we offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Soot, their two children and four grandchildren."
Zimmer, who has resided in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years, has been with the Rays - they were the Devil Rays, then - ever since, serving as senior adviser and spring training instructor. A stroke in 2008 slowed him significantly, but he still was a fixture with the club every spring.
"Today we all lost a national treasure and a wonderful man," said Rays owner Stuart Sternberg. "Don dedicated his life to the game he loved, and his impact will be felt for generations to come. His contributions to this organization are immeasurable. I am proud that he wore a Rays uniform for the past 11 years. We will miss him dearly."