New York Yankees coach Don Zimmer sported a bruise on his left ear and a sore neck, but he was back at work today after a frightening incident in the fifth inning of Tuesday's Game 1 against the Texas Rangers.
Zimmer was drilled on the side of the head by a foul ball off the bat of Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. He tumbled to the ground, and play was stopped momentarily as medical attendants and other personnel rushed to help the beloved 68-year-old coach.
Yankees Manager Joe Torre and others in the dugout were visibly shaken by the incident until learning that Zimmer was alert and joking after being treated in the clubhouse. Zimmer returned to the dugout with an ice pack and watched the rest of the Yankees' 8-0 victory.
"I saw the ball coming at me," Zimmer said today. "What I did was turn my head, when the ball hit me, I didn't know whether it hit me up in the head, whether it hit me in the cheekbone, I didn't really know. When I woke up this morning, I knew where it hit me the hardest. It scared me, but there was really not too much to it."
Zimmer managed the Yankees for 36 games this season while Torre recovered from cancer surgery. Zimmer has two arthritic knees and has mulled retirement. But today, with the Yankees 10 victories from their third World Series trophy in four years, Zimmer said he wanted to return.
He also recalled an incident in the dugout after he had returned from being treated for the beaning.
"Most of our hitters, when they think the umpire's missing pitches, they'll go up to [the Yankee cameraman], and they'll come back and show it to Joe where the ball's that far outside and they called it a strike," Zimmer said. "That goes on pretty regularly during our ballclub. Probably other clubs, too, but I see [Derek] Jeter coming out with that same sheet and I heard him say to Joe, 'Take a look at this.' I'm thinking maybe it's a pitch that far outside they called a strike on him. When I look down, it's this face with the ice pack on it. Leave it up to Jeter, he'll do something."
Zimmer said Yankees owner George Steinbrenner discussed the possibility of placing a plexiglas shield in front of the dugout before next season.
"I know a few years ago in spring training, somebody almost got killed with a line drive," Zimmer said. "If I'm sitting over here talking to you and not paying attention, you don't know what might happen."
Melvin on Bernie
Rangers General Manager Doug Melvin is one of the most respected talent evaluators in the game, but on Tuesday, he had a hard time enjoying one of his best signings. Melvin was the Yankees' scouting director in 1985 when the club signed center fielder Bernie Williams, who drove in six runs in Tuesday's victory.
"I remember at the time we gave him a signing bonus of $15,000," Melvin said. "Now he's making a few dollars more than that, and well-deserved."
Williams was one of baseball's most highly sought free agents last winter before signing a seven-year, $87.5 million deal to remain with the Yankees. Melvin revealed today that Williams apparently considered opening negotiations with the Rangers shortly before re-signing with the Yankees.
"I got a call from Bernie Williams," Melvin said. "I returned the call and Bernie was on the phone. He said he just signed with the Yankees, I didn't know what he was calling about, whether to express interest or not. He had called and said that he had signed with the Yankees. I said 'Well, that's good, Bernie, that's probably the best place for you, to stay there and have a great career and fall under the great tradition of Yankee center fielders.' He's a great individual and, you know, he'd be nice to have in our ballclub but it's not going to happen."
No Playoffs for Jefferson
Boston Red Sox designated hitter Reggie Jefferson, who has a .300 career batting average, left the team after being omitted from the postseason roster because Manager Jimy Williams wanted more versatility.
Jefferson was at Jacobs Field Tuesday but did not participate in the team's workout before tonight's opener of the first-round series against the Cleveland Indians, according to the Associated Press. Afterward, he spoke with General Manager Dan Duquette in the lobby of the team hotel, then left Cleveland, team spokesman Kevin Shea said.
Williams decided to keep infielders Lou Merloni and Donnie Sadler because of recent injuries to shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and third baseman John Valentin, who are ready to play.
Merloni and Sadler can play several positions, while Jefferson, a mediocre fielder, started all his 83 games as a DH and played in two of them at first base. He hit .277 in 206 at-bats with five homers and 17 RBI.