The Myth of Zim
By Tim Keown
Page 2 columnist

You know it's a bad day when the best thing anybody can say about it is, "Man, you did right by not punching that doddery old man of 72 years."

That's the kind of weekend it was for Pedro Martinez, who did everything wrong until Don Zimmer charged him. Pedro did wrong by throwing at Karim Garcia (although, if you're Garcia, take your base and be glad for it) and Pedro did especially wrong by pointing at Jorge Posada and then pointing at his own head. But when foolish old Zim charged him, he had no choice but to shoo him away with the most delicate force he could muster.

Don Zimmer
Who would have thought Don Zimmer would garner so much attention in this series?
Which brings up a confession: I don't get the whole Zimmer thing. Is it still OK to say this in present-day America? I don't get the fascination, and I don't get the anti-Pedro rage that erupted in such a nonsensical way after the fact. Zimmer's a decent enough guy, curmudgeonly in the way his appearance indicates, but I don't understand how he became this symbol of everything pure and right with the world.

I never saw him play, and I sympathize with his great-career-lessened-by-a-beanball story. But the man has been mythologized largely on the basis of his looks. He's old and round and jolly in a round-man-in-the-dugout kind of way. He's great friends with Joe Torre, seems to be a nice man and gave a heartfelt and meaningful apology Sunday afternoon. He once wore an Army helmet in the dugout and smiled a lot when he did it. Beyond that ... what?

The Myth Of Zim -- there was a beautifully-written, odd piece addressing this in Esquire a year or so ago -- is perfectly baseball: It has everything to do with what used to be and nothing to do with what is right now. Zim is Back In The Day and Pedro is $17 Million A Year For Chrissakes.

But for a couple of unfortunate seconds on Saturday, Zim was as wrong as Terrell Owens in the face of an offensive coach or Manny Ramirez getting stupid about a pitch that might have caught part of the plate.

Pedro, however, was another story. His only hope for salvation is an epic, season-saving performance in Game 7. In Boston, they're asking whether he's up for it, physically and otherwise.

This Week's List

  • Sure, the Founding Fathers fought for his right to do such things, but it still doesn't guarantee he's not going to be popped for it: Paul Williams, the groundskeeper who sits in the visitors' bullpen and roots for the home team.

  • And you know as well as I do that he would have said the exact same thing if he was mayor of Boston: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said he would have had Pedro arrested for "attacking" Zimmer had the game been at Yankee Stadium.

  • Most liberal use of the word "superstar" -- probably ever: A radio commercial on Bay Area sports talk stations touts an auto-dealership appearance that gives fans the chance to meet "49ers superstar Derrick Deese."

  • At first I thought ESPN2 had switched to a showing of "Patton," but then I looked at the screen and realized: It was the telecast of Brian Billick's Monday press conference.

  • Three words that strike fear in guys like Pedro and Roger Clemens: Grab a bat.

  • Making his case: Josh Beckett.

  • And by the way: Good for Beckett for calling out Sammy Sosa on Sammy's blatant overreaction to an inside pitch on Sunday.

  • You know it's going to happen; it's just a matter of when: At some point, somebody with an outsized sense of disrespect is going to charge the mound on a pitch that's called a strike.

  • Just for the heck of it: Celerino Sanchez.

  • He didn't hit Zimmer -- or anything else -- either: Nomar, no postseason RBIs through Boston's first nine games.

  • So what they're saying is, the desperation might get even worse than last week?: The latest reports indicate Kobe's defense team "has more surprises up its sleeve."

  • When you see two League Championship Series games scheduled for the same time on the same day, once again you have to ask the following question about the people who run the business of baseball: What other industry would be stupid enough to make its customers choose between two products when they've shown an enduring propensity for purchasing both?

  • And, of course, under Michael Bloomberg's law, there is only one possible sentence for Pedro: Life without at the Under Armour prison, where -- as you well know -- they will protect their house.

    Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.



    Tim Keown Archive

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    Keown: Officially bad

    Keown: NFL Season's dreams

    Keown: New Number won

    Keown: Preseason profiting

    Keown: From baseball to Clarett

    Keown: David Stern live!

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