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2015 Spring-Training Countdown, Day 4: Don Zimmer

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Popeye was an old-school manager. It nearly got the Cubs into the World Series.

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Here's the all-time list of Cubs number 4s:

Riggs Stephenson (1932), Babe Herman (1933-34), Chuck Klein (1935-36), Ethan Allen (1936), Billy Herman (1937-41), Charlie Gilbert (1941-42), Wimpy Quinn (1941), Hal Jeffcoat (1949-53), Smoky Burgess (1949), Ralph Kiner (1953-54), Ted Tappe (1955), John Goryl (1957-59), Billy Williams (1959), Charlie Root (coach, 1960), Vedie Himsl (coach, 1960), Verlon Walker (coach, 1966-1970), Hank Aguirre (coach, 1972-73), Vic Harris (1974-75), Harry Dunlop (coach, 1976), Randy Hundley (coach, 1977), Mike Roarke (coach, 1978-80), Jack Hiatt (coach, 1981), Lee Elia (manager, 1982-83), Charlie Fox (manager, 1983), Don Zimmer (coach 1984-86, manager 1988-91), Gene Michael (manager, 1986-87), Billy Connors (coach, 1992-93), Glenallen Hill (1994), Brian Dorsett (1996), Jeff Blauser (1998-99), Jeff Pentland (coach, 2000-2002), Doug Glanville (2003), Jason Dubois (2004-2005), Ben Grieve (2005), Freddie Bynum (2006), Rob Bowen (2007), Scott Moore (2007), Eric Patterson (2008), Joey Gathright (2009), Ryan Freel (2009), Pat Listach (coach, 2011-12), Dale Sveum (manager, 2013), Chris Valaika (2014)

That's quite a list. Pre-World War II, it was worn by quite a number of great players and you could make an argument for retiring No. 4 for Billy Herman, who wore it for the 1938 pennant winners and who is in the Hall of Fame.

From 1960 through 1993 it was worn by coaches and managers except for Vic Harris' brief interregnum in 1974-75. Since 2002 it's been worn by mostly forgettable players and one forgettable manager.

So let's talk about Don Zimmer, who had a tremendous amount of Cubness in him. He was acquired just before Opening Day 1960 for John Goryl, Lee Handley, Ron Perranoski and $25,000 in cash (that was considered quite a bit in 1960).

Whoops. Yet another terrible John Holland trade. Perranoski had a pretty good year in Double-A in 1959 at age 23, but for some reason, the Cubs couldn't see the talent. He spent another year in the minors and then became a bullpen mainstay for the Dodgers and Twins, pitching in two World Series for Los Angeles and getting a ring in 1963, and two more postseasons for the Twins in 1969 and 1970, leading the American League in saves both years.

Zimmer, meanwhile, put together two forgettable years for the Cubs (although, somehow, he made the All-Star team in 1961) and then went to the Mets in the 1962 expansion draft. After finishing his big-league career, he played in Japan for a year and then returned to coach and manage in the minors. He started his major-league managing career in 1972 with a bad Padres team, went on to manage the oh-so-close 1978 Red Sox and came back to the Cubs as third-base coach under Jim Frey in 1984.

Four years later he was managing the team, and a year after that he was National League Manager of the Year for the 1989 N.L. East champs. I've always contended that year's Cubs won more in spite of Zimmer than because of him; he made bizarre strategic moves (I seem to recall a triple-steal with the bases loaded) and made a critical bullpen mistake in the NLCS.

Two years later with the Cubs floundering around .500 he wanted Tribune Co. to give him a contract extension. Instead, they fired him.

Zimmer returned to coaching under Joe Torre with the Yankees and was involved in a memorable dustup with Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS, with Pedro and Zim getting into a scuffle despite the fact that there were 40 years of age difference between the two men.

Don Zimmer was a colorful character. You don't see that much in the buttoned-down, corporate baseball of the 2010s. We are the poorer for that. He was a baseball lifer -- even after retiring as a coach, he stayed on as a consultant for the Rays in his home of Tampa -- and few loved the game more than he did. I know he'd have loved to manage the Cubs to a World Series. He died a little less than a year ago and here's what I wrote about him at that time.

Like all those who were significant contributors to the Cubs over the years, he'll be remembered fondly when the Cubs finally do win it all.