L.A., Tampa Bay to salute Zimmer

The Dodgers and Devil Rays celebrated former Brooklyn/Los Angeles shortstop Don Zimmer's 59 years in baseball tonight before the game, with the Dodgers wearing throwback flannel uniforms from the Brooklyn era and the Rays wearing replicas of the St. Petersburg Saints' minor league uniforms of the same period.

Zimmer was an exceptional prospect when he arrived on the scene in Brooklym and some thought he would force All-Star and later Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese over to third base to make room for him.

But he suffered a pair of life-threatening beanings that slowed his development and became one of dozens of shortstops in the huge Brooklyn farm system that waited and waited, then were traded waiting for Reese to age.

He didn't until 1958 when the club moved to Los Angeles and Zimmer took over at short, setting a range factor record at shortstop that remains the highest in Los Angeles history.

Among those joining in the tribute are some of Zimmer's teammates, Hall of Fame member Duke Snider and former Dodgers pitchers Johnny Podres and Carl Erskine, teammates on the Dodgers' first World Series winner in 1955.

"For them to take time to come down here for this, it makes you feel pretty good," said Zimmer, after having breakfast with Snider and Podres. "They're not both in the greatest of health. And to think that they would fly down here for this, it makes you feel pretty good that the guys think that much of you."

For one night the Dodgers leave their light double-knits on the hanger and wear instead gray flannels similar to the 1955 Brooklyn road uniforms. The baggy uniforms have been out of style for many years, much to the delight of the players. After a hot game, they would soak up sweat and seem as if they weighted 10 pounds.

"It's a weird material," Randy Wolf said. "If feels like you're wearing a paper towel. Feel is a very important thing. But it's the same for everyone."

Zimmer said Wolf should consider himself lucky he doesn't have to wear flannel every day — especially outside climate-controlled Tropicana Field.

"Think about wearing them in St. Louis in July," Zimmer said. "It is so hot those uniforms seemed to weigh a ton. It was something. They were hot."

Former Dodger (1952) beat writer and best-selling author Roger Kahn will also be on hand tonight. He wrote the seminal baseball book "The Boys of Summer" about Zimmer's Dodgers. Kahn says talking to former Dodgers shortstop Reese about the book, a look at those Dodgers from the 1950s more than a decade later.

"Pee Wee told Kahn, 'You're wasting your time because nobody will want a book about a bunch of old ballplayers,' " Kahn said. The author said the book has sold more than 3 1/2 million copies since its debut 35 years ago.

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