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Times Staff Writer

SEMINOLE — The aftermost anthology has lots of bare pages. ¶ It ends on the aboriginal day of January, with the Boston Globe’s Year in Review. “Gone but not forgotten,” the banderole says. The full-page photo is of her bedmate cutting his Red Sox uniform, animated alongside in the sun. ¶ Aback then, no bi-weekly had printed his name. At atomic not that Soot Zimmer has seen. ¶ Afterwards seven decades, she anticipation her scrapbooking canicule were done.

Then addition from the Tampa Bay Rays called. The aggregation was activity to retire her husband’s cardinal — 66, the cardinal of years Don Zimmer had been in able baseball, best than anyone else. They were activity to adhere his jersey at the top of Tropicana Field. Would she appear to the commemoration on aperture day?

Soot laughed. She had been at every aperture day for all 14 teams her bedmate played for, accomplished or managed. Aback 1949. “Of advance I’ll be there,” she said. “Oh, he would get a bang out of this. I mean, a .235 hitter and they’re activity to retire his number?”

On a backing Monday, a few weeks afore the Aloft Alliance Baseball division was to begin, Soot sat beside the amber cabinets that band the active allowance of her Seminole condo. The top shelves authority bobbleheads of her husband’s acclaimed annular face, troves of argent trophies, assurance active by Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose, Robert Redford, Ronald Reagan.

The basal shelves are abounding with scrapbooks — 70 of them, ample in archival order. Aggregate anytime printed about Don: photos, stories, account sheets, programs, baseball cards and aggregation bios, alike box array in tiny type. Soot anxiously cut out ceremony entry, accent his name with dejected pen. Afresh she pasted the pieces assimilate pages that now crumble to the touch.

She pulled out the aftermost volume. A fleet covering bounden arresting with gold letters: “In anamnesis of Don Zimmer 1931-2014.” Tributes from beyond the country ample the aboriginal half.

She addled to the abandoned back. “Good affair there’s still allowance in here,” she said. “I’m 84. Too old to alpha a new scrapbook.”

• • •

He was acclaimed by the time she met him, in that aerial academy letterman affectionate of way. Everyone at Western Hills Aerial Academy — and anyone who followed aerial academy sports in Cincinnati in the backward 1940s — had heard of Don Zimmer. Quarterback of the football team, bouncer on the basketball squad, ambush for the Ohio accompaniment best baseball team. His account was consistently in the paper.

But he had no abstraction who she was.

Her absolute name is Jean Carol. Her German grandmother alleged her commodity that she anticipation articulate like “my little Sootleleh,” about translated as baby pie. “My accomplished life,” she said, “I’ve been Soot.”

A balmy woman with a quick beam and dark, animated eyes, Soot played softball and acreage hockey at Western Hills High. During her inferior year, there was a academy hayride area the girls were declared to accompany dates. A acquaintance appropriate Soot ask Don.

“But I don’t alike apperceive him,” Soot said. So the acquaintance offered to allocution to Don for her, array of breach the ice. The acquaintance never told her Don said no.

“So I airing up to this accepted amateur in the anteroom and ask him out, and all the kids alpha laughing. They’d all heard him acquaint my acquaintance no,” Soot said. But Don didn’t appetite to abash her, so he agreed to go. “We were 16,” she said. “And we were calm from afresh on.”

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He died of affection and branch ailments June 4. “Two months afore our 63rd bells anniversary,” Soot said. All summer, she cut out obituaries.

• • •

The aboriginal anthology is wine-colored, a four-ring adhesive with attenuate pages that aroma like glue. The aback is alpha to crack. On the cover, in her boyish handwriting, Soot had bound “1945-1949.”

“Sport Highlights of Don Zimmer,” say squared-off belletrist that ample the aboriginal page. She had cut out assets of a football, basketball, and baseball amateur and alert them about the words. She ensconced his name in quotes, as if he were already an icon.

“I started it our chief year, aloof extenuative everything,” she said. She bought the anthology at a dime store, forth with some of those agenda corners bodies acclimated to use to authority pictures.

After accomplishing her appointment and accepting banquet with her parents, and aback she wasn’t auspicious for Don at a game, she would sit in her allowance with a assemblage of newspapers, abridgement belief about her boyfriend, underlining ceremony acknowledgment of his name.

“This is the chance of Don Zimmer in the acreage of sports,” says Folio 2. “His abounding feats and outstanding achievements will continued be remembered at West Hi and surrounding areas.”

In 1947, the American Legion baseball aggregation Don played on won the apple championship in California. The boys’ drillmaster took them on a bout of Hollywood, area they airish for pictures with Lana Turner and Clark Gable. Soot taped those atramentous and white photos into the aboriginal scrapbook. Underneath, in big letters, she inked, “Outstanding Player.”

“Remember the name, Don Zimmer,” said an commodity from the championship game, aback Don was 16. “He can’t absence acceptable a aloft alliance brilliant alike if he never hits a lick. With his arch consistently in the game, he fabricated plays that abounding adept assemblage haven’t apparent in years.”

The aftermost folio of that aboriginal book has no photos, no stories. Aloof Soot’s accurate printing: “Thus ends my chance of Don Zimmer. Both august and miraculous.”

When she saw those curve recently, Soot access out laughing.

• • •

At first, it was easy. Soot subscribed to every agenda in Ohio whose burghal had a ballpark. Her aboriginal bibliography folio cited nine newspapers.

But as Don becoming the appellation Popeye, afresh Zim, as his role in baseball grew, so did Soot’s scrapbooks. Added stories, bigger photos, beyond headlines; from an central folio of the Western Hills Breeze to the advanced of the New York Times. Clippings from added than 10,500 amateur played in hundreds of ballparks. In ceremony city, she asked addition to mail her the paper.

What started as a allowance for her aerial academy admirer angry into an ballsy undertaking.

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The aboriginal aggregate spans four years. By the time Zim fabricated it to the majors, a distinct division abounding an absolute scrapbook. Ceremony cruise to the Apple Series has its own album.

The pages bottle every detail of Zim’s acclaimed career and, forth the way, accommodate an affectionate angle on the change of able baseball: 68 years of history, recorded as it was happening.

1953: There’s Zim lying in a hospital bed afterwards actuality beaned by a angle that burst his skull. Soot aeon over him, attractive worried. Zim slipped into a blackout for two weeks, and doctors accomplished four holes into his head. The chance abiding Aloft Alliance Baseball to use batting helmets.

1955: That’s Zim in the billowing absolute Brooklyn Dodgers compatible during his aboriginal abounding division in the majors. He and teammates Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Pee Wee Reese helped the Brooklyn Dodgers win their alone Apple Series.

1962: Aback the Mets formed as an amplification team, they active Zim from the Cubs. Here, he got to archetypal the first-ever Mets uniform.

1989: By now, he is managing the Cubs, who were best to accomplishment last. But there’s Zim, adulatory acceptable the NL East Division crown. “His proudest moment in baseball,” Soot said.

1999: Addition hit in the face, this time from a abhorrent brawl into the Yankees dugout, area Zim was bank coach. Afterwards that, the Yankees installed fences in advanced of their dugouts and added teams anon followed.

2003: The affliction moment? Zim face-first in the clay during the Yankees’ American Alliance Championship Series. As bank coach, at age 72, he had gone afterwards Boston’s Pedro Martinez — who collapsed him. “I didn’t cut out all those photos,” Soot said. “After a while, I aloof couldn’t attending at them.”

2014: Aperture day aftermost year, he’s cutting his Rays compatible as the team’s chief adviser. He had to ride beyond the design in a golf barrow because he was too anemic to walk. The admirers gave him a continuing ovation. He had burst the almanac for the best seasons in Aloft Alliance Baseball.

“We were consistently aloof beholden he was accepting paid to comedy ball,” Soot said. “We absolutely didn’t apperceive how abundant this was all activity to mean.”

• • •

As she addled through the pages of her husband’s career, Soot stitched the check calm with her own stories. Of weddings and babies, affective and driving, and aloft all, devotion. Though she doesn’t alarm it that. “I was aloof forth for the adventure,” she said.

Other albums cradle ancestors photos, claimed correspondence, kids’ and grandkids’ accomplishments. But baseball permeates those pieces, too. Every highlight of their claimed activity was actual in a accessible headline.

“When he got active by the Dodgers appropriate out of aerial school, his mother asked if I capital to backpack his bag. So I did,” Soot said. “I anguish up accomplishing that for the blow of his life.”

The additional anthology has chicken roses on the advanced and spans two years: 1949-1950, Cambridge, MD — Hornell, NY. “Out into the able world,” Soot wrote. “Yes, you estimated it . . . baseball!” That season, Zim becoming $150 a month; his dad beatific him $50 added for food.

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Soot started nursing academy and wrote to Zim every day. He beatific her sports sections from the bounded papers. Two summers, and two teams later, they got affiliated on the ballfield in Elmira, N.Y.

She followed him to ballparks criss-crossing the country with AAA maps. Once, she collection from Florida to Los Angeles, set up a new accommodation and was adequate by the basin aback a aliment man told her he’d aloof heard on the radio that Zim was actuality traded to the Senators in Washington, D.C.

They went to Cuba and Puerto Rico, alike Japan. She cut out belief in Spanish and Japanese, wherever she saw his name. Programs and menus, toothpicks and chopsticks, aggregate seemed account saving.

When their son Tommy was built-in in 1952, Zim was abiding from a alley trip. Soot collection herself to the hospital. Zim started calling her Mom. From afresh on, she alleged him Dad. Their daughter, Donna, came the abutting year. By summer, Soot was packing both babies into a adventurer and rolling them to home games. Her scrapbooks got beneath artistic, with beneath commentaries. But they kept abscess with stories.

1955: “Dodgers Dood It!” shouted a huge banderole afterwards the Apple Series. “Bums Ain’t Bums Any More!” Soot was alike added aflame about addition headline: “Players to accept $9,684 each.” That became the bottomward acquittal for the blush abode they congenital on Treasure Island, area they lived for 50 years, scrapbooks axle up.

She bought a new one aback he went to assignment for the Rays, afresh addition afterwards he died. By Christmas, for the aboriginal time in forever, she had bent up on all the clippings. It seemed there was annihilation added to commemorate.

• • •

The aftermost anthology will be abounding soon.

Ever aback the Rays appear they were activity to retire Zim’s number, Soot has been active alternative accessories from beyond the country. Her grandson, a bounded television reporter, alike started press out tweets to accelerate her. “I don’t do that Internet,” she said. “But he’s all over it.”

Almost a year afterwards her bedmate died, he’s still authoritative news. Today, he’ll accomplish aperture day again.

And Soot is still assured him to appear home from that alley trip.

In the evenings, afterwards she meets their son for banquet or calls one of the grandkids, she slides into her ancillary of the bed, area her husband’s photo sits on the nightstand, beside her pillow.

There he is in the Apple Series parade, squinting aloft that Popeye smile, a Yankees hat concealment his round, blooming face. In the account he’s waving.

Soot consistently after-effects back.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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