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Friday 20th Oct 2017

"Who's Don Zimmer?" Diane asked the other day, when the news flashed at the bottom of the TV screen that the baseball icon had drifted from this planet.

"A lifetime baseball guy," I said, finishing with "I think he was in baseball for something like 66 years (it was actually 65). Only job ever, playing or coaching or scouting baseball."

That was about as much as she needed or wanted to know, and then it was back to whatever else we were watching or doing.

Since then, though I have not really read any articles about Zim, whose career, and as a result life I have witnessed. But, I have thought back most of those 65 years, since Zim was three years into his career when I was born.

I remembered my first baseball cards: a bunch of '56 and '57 Topps that my parents' friend Richie Israel had outgrown, so Passover of 1960, he gave his shoe box to me.

What is funny is how old those two and three-year-old cards seemed to me at that time, and how old fashioned they seemed compared to the 1959 set (which remains my favorite). The players looked old to me in the same manner our grandparents seem ancient to us when we are little.

But even then, Zim looked like kind of a throwback, in the Rocky Bridges "I have huge forearms and an equally large hunk of chaw in my mouth" way.

Zim may not have been old enough to have seen Ruth or Gehrig play, but certainly he saw the next generation of stars--the generation of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio--and he played with Jackie Robinson.

And, he played at Fenway and Wrigley, where Ruth and Gehrig and Williams and DiMaggio all played for at least a game.

As for me, I got to see Willie Mays and Willie McCovey in their prime, and Sandy Koufax and Cal Ripken, Jr. Along with Greg Maddux and Albert Pujols, and now Mike Trout and Jose Fernandez.

For Trout, and Fernandez, and these days Josh Donaldson and Sonny Gray in Oakland, are the cool now players, not old guys like Derek Jeter.

I know this because a couple of weeks ago, I had my yearly weekend of watching my friend's kids play ball. That included a playoff game that pitted brothers Zach and Ben Anderson against one another, in what proved to be an excellent 6-5 game that went to the last pitch, and featured just a couple of walks: pretty good for ten-year olds.

But, I know Zach and Ben and their teammates like Gray and Donaldson and Brandon Moss because they told me so.

And that is much of what makes baseball so magical and mystical to me.

For the game that Zach and Ben played is essentially the same game that is played down the road at the O.co, and across the bridge at ATT. They are playing the same game that was played at Ebbets Field, where Zimmer began his Major League career, and at both Fenway and Wrigley, where baseball has witnessed 100 years of play.

I remember how jazzed I was when I attended my first games at both those storied yards.

I hope that someday Zach and Ben--hopefully together--get to both those ball parks.

Where Don Zimmer played and coached for a chunk of those 65 seasons.

That is how baseball binds us, person-to-person, generation-to-generation.

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