By Mychael Urban / MLB.comRays senior advisor Don Zimmer is baseball's version of the lovable old-timer of an uncle who sets up shop at the local fishing hole, spending the day regaling anyone who stops by with entertaining tales of the way things used to be.
"Zim," who also goes by "Popeye," is a baseball lifer, and he's got the stories to prove it. He's 77 years old, and he's traveled so many of the game's many roads that he has fans all over the country.
"Wherever we go, he's the most popular man in uniform," said Rays first baseman Carlos Pena. "He has more fans than everyone on the team combined."
Many of those fans, no doubt, are in Ohio. Zimmer was born in Cincinnati, and with apologies to Red Sox standout Kevin Youkilis, whose club fell to Tampa Bay in the American League Championship Series, Zim is the Queen City's most accomplished native to have participated in the 2008 postseason.
As a scrappy infielder who overcame a near-death beaning in the Minors, Zimmer, who has a steel plate in his head as the result of a later beaning, played for five teams during his 12-year career in the Majors and made the National League All-Star team in 1961.
As a manager, he skippered four teams and was named the NL Manager of the Year in 1989.
Zimmer also has served as a coach for a handful of big league clubs, including the Rockies -- he was on the staff of the expansion team's first-ever squad in 1993 -- and the Yankees. He'll be forever remembered as a central figure in the 2003 ALCS dustup between the Red Sox and Bronx Bombers, during which he was thrown to the ground by then-Sox ace Pedro Martinez, and by the image of him sitting on the Yankees bench wearing an army helmet.
"He's a little like Forrest Gump," said Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi. "Except he wasn't just there for all the crazy stuff. He's been right in the middle of it. ... He knows everyone, and everyone knows him."
Fans of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Reds and Washington Senators know him from his playing days in the Majors.
Fans of the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs know him as a big league manager; he was NL Manager of the Year for the 1989 Cubs.
And now, given his role with the Rays, Floridian fans are familiar with the irrepressible uncle who has a lifetime of baseball stories to share.
"I've been working in baseball my whole life," said Zimmer, whose uniform No. 60 with Tampa Bay signifies the number of years he's been involved in pro ball.
But judging by the smile that so easily overcomes his cherubic mug, some might say he's never worked a day.
Mychael Urban is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.