"He was a character," Sandberg said of Zimmer, a baseball lifer who also managed in San Diego, Texas and Boston. "He had an old-school, rugged baseball look about him, the big chaw in there . . . He influenced me as a player and a baseball guy. He played a big part in teaching me the game."
Zimmer is the only manager in baseball history to take both the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox into the postseason. In his later years, he mentored the likes of Derek Jeter and Evan Longoria.
In addition to his career as a manager, coach and most recently as a senior adviser with the Tampa Bay Rays, Zimmer was an infielder for 12 big-league seasons. He made the 1961 National League All-Star team, played on the New York Mets inaugural team and won World Series rings with both the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. He played with Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn.
During his 3-plus years as the Cubs manager, from 1988-91, Zimmer likened his All-Star second baseman to Robinson.
"Biggest compliment a coach ever gave me," Sandberg said. "He said I reminded him of Jackie Robinson . . . I really read up on Jackie Robinson and took it to heart. [He said it was] aggressive baserunning, hustle, the way I swung the bat."
Sandberg stayed in touch with his former manager over the years. Zimmer was one of two former managers, along with Jim Frey, who Sandberg reached out to when he was trying to decide whether to embark on his own managing career back in 2007.
Zimmer spent 66 years in the game. Sandberg was asked if he could see himself following a similar path.
"I think I could," he said. "When it's in your blood, it's in your blood."
Sandberg, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005, hopes there's a place there for Zimmer some day in the near future.
"To me he's one of those guys who should be considered for the Buck O'Neil [Lifetime Achievement] Award for the Hall of Fame, the baseball lifer-type of guy who influenced the game with his accomplishments. He did just about everything in the game."
Domonic Brown was one of five Phillies in yesterday's starting lineup who went hitless. Brown is hitting .206 in 56 games.
John Mayberry Jr., meanwhile, homered for the second straight game. Mayberry, who started in place of Marlon Byrd in rightfield, is 10-for-23 (.435) with three home runs, three doubles and eight RBI in his last 12 games (five starts).
Following yesterday's game, Sandberg was asked if Mayberry could work himself into more regular playing time in an outfield that has lacked regular production in 2014.
"[I'll] take a look at him, think about him going forward," Sandberg said. " 'Maybs' is swinging a good bat. He's on a string of games hitting, swinging the bat well."
Cody Asche is continuing his rehab program in Clearwater, Fla., but is not yet scheduled to play in rehab games, according to assistant general manager Scott Proefrock. Asche was placed on the 15-day DL with a left hamstring strain on May 25. He is eligible to return from the DL tomorrow, but obviously that will not be happening . . . The Phillies have lost seven of the first eight games Cole Hamels has started this season, but perhaps their luck will change tonight in Cincinnati, where Hamels has dominated in his career. Hamels is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA at Great American Ball Park; and those numbers don't include the five-hit shutout he pitched in Game 3 of the National League Division Series in Cincinnati in 2010. Overall, Hamels is 8-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 11 starts against the Reds in his career. The Reds, meanwhile, will send MLB ERA leader Johnny Cueto (5-4, 1.68 ERA) to the mound tonight . . . Righthanded pitcher Luis Garcia (right forearm strain) has begun a rehab assignment at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21