Windham remembers former Red Sox skipper Zimmer
WINDHAM — Former Boston Red Sox manager Don Zimmer, who died on Wednesday at age 83, had a special connection to the town of Windham.
Zimmer’s daughter, Donna Zimmer Mollica, is a longtime Windham resident and his granddaughter, Whitney, was a softball star at Salem High School and the University of Massachusetts before beginning her own successful coaching career at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.
Zimmer, who was Red Sox manager from 1976-80, took that connection to Windham seriously. He donated to the town’s baseball and softball programs for decades, according to Town Administrator David Sullivan.
On Thursday morning, Sullivan and several town officials gathered at the baseball field that bears Zimmer’s name at Griffin Park to remember what the man meant to the world of baseball and to the town.
“We appreciate what he did for Windham and, as a baseball fan, I appreciate what he did in the world of baseball,” said Sullivan.
Selectman Bruce Breton noted that Zimmer had to scrap his way into Major League Baseball as a player, and once he was in, he stayed involved in the game for over six decades.
Zimmer’s involvement in Major League Baseball lasted for 66 years. His playing career ran from 1954 to 1965 and he remained involved in Major League Baseball as a manager, coach or adviser, including the last 10 years as a senior adviser to the Tampa Bay Rays.
“He was like a Johnny Pesky type of person,” said Sullivan. “He was a great guy for baseball and he was great as a human being.”
Sullivan said Zimmer would go out of his way to donate to and help raise money for the Windham baseball and softball programs.
“He was a big part of my life,” said Breton. “I was always a big fan of the Red Sox.”
Former selectman Charlie McMahon was the president of the Windham Baseball League in the early 2000s when Griffin Park went from a dream to a reality.
After the park and baseball fields were built, McMahon was one of the guiding forces in naming one of the fields in Zimmer’s honor.
“Don was a decades-long supporter of Windham baseball and softball,” said McMahon. “The idea was to honor the man while he was still with us and dedicate the field in his honor.”
The dedication took place in 2002, and McMahon said Zimmer was very appreciative of the efforts made by the town.
In addition to Zimmer, then-New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, and former Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocelli were on hand to help honor Zimmer.
“I’m fat and old and weigh 230 pounds,” Zimmer joked during the 2002 dedication. “But my daughter, she weighs about 80 pounds because she’s always running around doing stuff. So many people worked to make this happen. That’s what makes this place special.”