It was around 2000 I met Don Zimmer by a total fluke. I was in Kansas City where I lived twice, 1966-69 and 1978-85.

At the time I Director of Programming for Journal Broadcast Group and I was based in Wichita, KS.

I was taking two other gentlemen to lunch and trying to find a restaurant in North Kansas City that back in my day was the Italian Restaurant to go to. It was Jenny's and somewhat famous for its mafia connections.We drove around the blocks where I recalled it being and of course, this was way before Siri and GPS. We had no printed map, just my feeble recollections.

All of us were baseball fans and one guy and myself Yankees fans. Well, wouldn't you know, we see a sign in front of a brick building that read, "Lunch today with Don Zimmer."

Suddenly lunch at Jenny's didn't sound so inviting anymore.

Since we'd driven around essentially lost for 45 minutes or so we were late for lunch. It had already been consumed.

And, on top of that, it was a private function at the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum.

We were so obviously enamored of baseball and where we were, the people in charge  consented to let us in for Don Zimmer's remarks.

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Also on the stage and being saluted was famous Kansas City player Buck O'Neil who at that time attended every Kansas City Royals baseball game and had a seat of honor behind home plate.

Well, both of these men were so funny. I wish I could remember a story to share. Both told tales on each other and players my entourage and I had heard of from our youth. We laughed heartily.

Afterwards, we shook hands with 'Zim', whom I felt I had known all my life and had merely been introduced to.

Later that night at Kaufman Stadium home of the Royals, our tickets were just a row over from Buck O'Neil's special seat. He was there, of course, and visited with us laughing and carrying on all the time.

Buck died at 94 years old in 2006.

Yesterday, Don Zimmer died at the age of 83.

My memories of meeting both will last as long as I do.

Zim, always a Yankee to me (Photo by Scott HalleranGetty Images)
Zim, always a Yankee to me (Photo by Scott HalleranGetty Images)


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