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Elmira Pioneers Mourn Passing of Pioneers Great, Baseball Lifer Don Zimmer

Robbie Knopf

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | Categories:
In 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers decided to send their top shortstop prospect to their A-ball affiliate, the Elmira Pioneers. There was reason to be skeptical about the move: the 20 year old had played at only the D-level the previous season and would be one of the smallest players on the team at 5'9", 165. However, the prospect, whose name was Don Zimmer, vastly exceeded all expectations.
In 137 games with the Pioneers that season, Zimmer hit .273 with a team-leading 137 hits, 28 doubles, and 9 home runs. He was Elmira's most durable player, leading the team with 546 at-bats, and he was also an excellent run producer, driving in 70. Combining excellent power for a shortstop with good defense and speed, Zimmer had firmly established himself as Pee Wee Reese's eventual successor as Dodgers shortstop. Zimmer's on-field performance, though, was only half the equation.
On August 16th, Zimmer married Soot, his high school sweetheart, in a ceremony at home plate at Dunn Field, the Pioneers' home ballpark. Afterwards, Zimmer and Soot walked through an aisle of teammates holding raised bats as Zimmer went to dugout to get ready for that night's game and Soot went to sit in the stands. Don and Soot Zimmer remained married until Don's passing last night at the age of 83.
The entire Elmira Pioneers organization would like to give condolences to the entire Zimmer family on the loss of a husband, father, and grandfather. The entire baseball community has lost one of its greatest personalities, a major leaguer for 12 years, a manager for 18 more, and a man who was involved with baseball for 66 years. Dunn Field and the Pioneers are fortunate to have been a home for Zimmer for that 1951 season and have stories to tell about him for years to come. The flag at Dunn Field will be at half mast for this weekend's games.
Elmira Pioneers...A Baseball Tradition Since 1888