Phillies Notes: Zimmer was a mentor to Sandberg

Posted: June 07, 2014

WASHINGTON - When Don Zimmer debuted in 1954 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson was no longer the team's everyday second baseman. Robinson floated around the field at the twilight of his career, and he manned left field on July 2, 1954, at Connie Mack Stadium in North Philadelphia. Zimmer played shortstop.

Zimmer, who died Wednesday at 83, was baseball's Forrest Gump. He once met Babe Ruth, got married at home plate in a minor-league stadium, called Robinson a teammate, played under Casey Stengel, was assaulted by Pedro Martinez, and instructed Derek Jeter.

He coached Ryne Sandberg in Chicago for seven years - three as Cubs manager - and left an indelible impression on the young second baseman. The best compliment Sandberg ever received from a coach was Zimmer's proclamation soon after they met.

"He said I reminded him of Jackie Robinson," Sandberg said. "I took it to heart."

Sandberg learned of Zimmer's death during the rain delay Wednesday night at Nationals Park. The Phillies manager saw the news on a TV.

"He played a big part in teaching me the game," Sandberg said.

Sandberg called two mentors - Jim Frey and Zimmer - in 2007 when he started managing in the minors.

"Do it your way," Zimmer told him. "Don't worry about how Don Zimmer did it."

Zimmer recalled that conversation last October when asked why Sandberg, a Hall of Famer, craved a chance to manage in the majors.

"It's in your blood," Zimmer said. "If you're a baseball man, you're a baseball man. And you'll stay in it until they run you out. That's what happens."

Zimmer spent 66 years in baseball. Sandberg, 54, likes the sound of that, and echoed his teacher.

"I think I could," Sandberg said. "When it's in your blood, it's in your blood."

Extra bases

Cody Asche (strained left hamstring) took batting practice Thursday in Clearwater. He started jogging Tuesday. He will need at least another week to return. . . . Neither Jonathan Papelbon nor Mike Adams pitched in the series. Papelbon's last save attempt was May 24. Adams last appeared last Friday. . . . The Phils could subtract a pitcher for a bench player Friday, although there are no clear choices. One possibility is veteran infielder Ronny Cedeno, who was removed from Thursday's IronPigs game. He is hitting .346 since May 1. He would have to be added to the 40-man roster.

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