Great Baseball Nicknames: ‘Popeye’ and ‘The Gerbil’- Don Zimmer. Don Zimmer as a player, coach and manager was a true baseball lifer. He started playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954 and ended his playing career in Japan in 1966. As a coach, manager and at the end senior advisor from 1971 to 2014. He was a much loved guy in baseball circles- but to be honest I always thought as a manager he wasn’t very good. Some of his moves as manager of the Boston Red Sox in 1978 contributed heavily to their blowing a 14 game lead they enjoyed over the NY Yankees. Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee hated Zimmer and the feeling was mutual but Zimmer let his personal feelings get in the way. In early September with the lead down to 4 games- the “Boston Massacre” took place- the Yankees came to down and destroyed the Red Sox in a four game series. In one of the games Bill Lee was to pitch- and he had a history of pitching well against the Yankees but Zimmer started untested rookie Bobby Sprowl who walked four and gave up a hit before being pulled from the game in the first inning. Lee’s nickname for Zimmer was “The Gerbil’- Lee wasn’t the only one who didn’t care for Zimmer with the Red Sox- Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins called him “Buffalo Head’- stating that the buffalo is the dumbest animal known to man…. One of the kinder nicknames for Zimmer was ‘Popeye’- because well he looked like ‘Popeye’
Here is an article from the Irish Times about the Bill ‘Spaceman” Lee- Don ‘The Gerbil” Zimmer hatred of one another.