McClendon pays tribute to mentor Zimmer

Lloyd McClendon woke up Thursday with an off day in Florida and was struck by a notable absence.

Don Zimmer, his long-time friend and mentor, was not going to stop by to take him to their annual trek to the horse race track in Tampa. Zimmer, one of baseball’s beloved figures, died Wednesday at 83.

“I was getting ready to go to the track and I realized that Zim was not picking me up,” McClendon said. “[Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland] and I have been going to the track with him the last eight or nine years and I will miss that. I’ll miss him telling me that he’s out of bullets.”

McClendon went and played the ponies anyway and thought often of the man who was his manager with the Cubs in 1989 when they won the National League Central.

“I lost a lot of money in his honor yesterday, yes I did,” McClendon said with a chuckle. “I was out of bullets at the end.”

Zimmer will be honored in a pregame ceremony on Saturday at Tropicana Field after spending his final years working for the Rays.

“Zim was an institution,” McClendon said. “Somebody was saying he was the adviser for the Tampa Bay Rays and that’s true. But he was a mentor to a lot of us. He was certainly a mentor to me and I was proud he was my skipper. I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot about the horses, too. He always told me somebody has got to win the race, go bet the money.”

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