Baseball icon Zimmer remembered in Windham
WINDHAM — Three months after his death, Don Zimmer’s legacy lives on in Windham.
The former Major League baseball player, manager and coach, who died June 4 at age 83, had strong roots in the close-knit town and if you’d ask most of the town’s longtime residents, many would offer up a Zimmer story of their own.
Zimmer’s daughter and son-in-law, Donna and David Mollica, still live in town: his granddaughter, Whitney, was born there.
But when the little girl started playing sports in her hometown, Windham was very short on fields, according to Diane Carpenter, president of the Windham Endowment for Community Advancement.
As the Mollicas became more and more involved in the town’s baseball and softball leagues, fate would soon intervene when Zimmer stepped forward to lend a hand.
“Coach Zimmer would supply amazing memorabilia for auctions and fundraisers held in town over many years,” Carpenter said. “Whenever Don would come to town, Donna would work with the schools and he would come in and speak with students about the importance of good education.”
By 2002, Windham Baseball/Softball had a field of its own inside Griffin Park, which they named after Zimmer.
“Don Zimmer touched our community in a wonderful way,” Endowment spokeswoman Ruth Coole said, noting that many folks in town simply addressed the legendary coach as “Zim.”
In 2011, Donna Mollica joined the Endowment’s board of directors and continues to honor her father’s memory by working towards expanded recreation options for local children and families.
With a baseball career spanning nearly seven decades, Zimmer is said to have met Babe Ruth, played with Jackie Robinson and coached Derek Jeter. He coached the Boston Red Sox in the 1970s.
Zimmer will be honored posthumously this fall during a special fundraiser at the Castleton in Windham.
Hosted by the Endowment, “For the Love of the Game! A Tribute to Don Zimmer,” will honor the baseball icon who never forgot about the people of Windham.
Special guests for the evening will include former Red Sox players and coaches Walter Hriniak, Bob Montgomery, Rico Petrocelli, Jerry Remy, Rim Rice and Bob Stanley, as well as local sports and media personalities.
Zimmer’s widow, Jean “Soot” Zimmer, will be the night’s guest of honor.
Dinner, auctions, live music and a special screening of a Zimmer tribute video will cap off the evening’s festivities.
All proceeds of the event will benefit the local recreation fund.
“This is a fund that helps community’s growing recreation needs,” Carpenter said. A portion of ticket sales will be used to help economically disadvantaged children participate in after-school and summer recreation programs.
“For the Love of the Game!” will take place Friday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $75. For more information, go to windhamendowment.org.