Burleson on Zimmer: “Best manager I ever played for”
Former Red Sox shortstop Rick Burleson was saddened to hear that Don Zimmer, the man he referred to as “the best manager I ever played for”, died on Wednesday.
Here is the Rooster on Zim, who managed the Red Sox from 1976-80 and also had two stints as a Boston coach.
“It was a wonderful experience. I was a rookie when he came over there in ’74 to coach third and I got called up basically May 1 of ’74 and he was there and of course I had him that spring. All the players loved him. Then he became manager, I think it was middle of ’76. I was with him from ’76 through ’80 as a player. So five years as a player, and seven years total.”
Burleson played for Darrell Johnson, Jim Fregosi and Gene Mauch, among some others, but he thinks Zimmer was the best he played for.
“He was the best manager I ever played for, without a doubt. Fregosi was wonderful when I was here for a brief time in ’81 when he was with the Angels. Zim was a player’s manager. He knew the game really well. The thing that you knew with him was that you were going to be in the lineup and basically where you were going to hit pretty much every day. We had kind of a set deal there in Boston in those years and he just expected you to go out there and give it your all. And that’s basically what we tried to do and he was outstanding.”
But Zimmer was more than just a manager to Burleson. He was family.
“This was a guy, when I was in Spring Training in ’77, when he was the manager, he asked if he could babysit so that my wife and I could go out to dinner by ourselves. Him and his wife came over and babysat our oldest boy Tyler.”
Burleson marveled at the fact Zimmer worked in baseball — and only in baseball.
“He probably spent 60-some years in the game and he told me at one time he never had a job in his whole life other than baseball. I don’t think there’s many people you can count on your hand that can say that. We all have to do something at some point. So I mean, I feel for his wife Soot and their family and his daughter and son. It’s a sad day to see that happen. He had a great life. He did what he wanted to do. I don’t think you can ask for any more than that.”
In Burleson’s mind, Zimmer’s door was always open.
“He was helpful, he was very helpful as a coach. And then as a manager, he was a good leader. That’s all any player wants, is for someone to be honest with them and there to talk to when you need to talk to him. He was always the guy.He will be missed and he was definitely one of our favorites here in this family, that’s for sure.”