A bandage on his face and a lump on his neck, Don Zimmer all but confirmed Wednesday that he had decided against retirement and will return as the New York Yankees' bench coach next season.
Zimmer was smacked in the head by a foul ball during Tuesday night's AL playoffs opener. Players were concerned when he was on the dugout floor and helped to the clubhouse, but it turns out Zimmer came away with just a few cuts on his left jaw and ear.
"When the ball hit me, I didn't know whether it hit me up in the head, whether it hit me in the cheek bone," Zimmer said Wednesday. "When I woke up this morning, I knew where it hit me the hardest."
Turns out, it hit his neck and rebounded toward his left ear.
"I got a little swelling," Zimmer said. "I'm a little stiff."
Earlier this year, Zimmer talked about retiring after this season, his 51st in professional baseball. Zimmer, 68, was hobbled by a bad knee and stressed by a stint as interim manager while manager Joe Torre recovered from prostate cancer surgery.
After Zimmer was hit, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner came down to the clubhouse along with his son, Hal, wanting to find out Zimmer's condition and talking about installing plexiglass to guard the dugout next season.
That's when Zimmer, an ice pack on his face, brought up his future.
"I said, `Well, maybe I'll clear this up a little bit right now.' I said, `Boy, I've had a tough summer.' I said, `I think I'll go another four or five years can then call it quits.' I was trying to throw George a little hint, you know, I'll maybe come back."
Zimmer said it was the scariest moment he's experienced with a foul ball.
"There's a lot of guys that sit in the dugout and they're not paying attention. As many times as I've been hit in the head, I do pay attention," said Zimmer, who has a metal plate in his head, the result of a 1953 beaning.
While he was in the clubhouse being attended to, Zimmer was told his wife, Jean, had come down from the seats and was outside in the hallway. He wanted to get back to the bench right away.
"I said, `Tell her to go on up, sit in the stands and have a hot dog, and I'll see her after the game,' " Zimmer related. "That's when they slowed up the bleeding of my ear. Where else am I going to go but back to the bench?"
After he got there, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter had a surprise for him, showing a picture to manager Joe Torre.
"I heard him say, `Joe, take a look at this,' " Zimmer said. "I'm thinking maybe it's a pitch that far outside, they called a strike on him. When I look down, it's this face with the ice pack on it. Leave it up to Jeter, he'll do something."