Chief Zimmer

  • Series: Pioneer Portraits II: 1875-1899
  • City: Cleveland
  • Team: Spiders
  • League: National League

Charles Louis Zimmer (1860-1949) was one of the great catchers the game has known. As Cy Young’s receiver from 1890-98, Chief was extolled by the great pitcher as a peerless partner. The two grew up together with Cleveland with Zimmer setting numerous records at his position while guiding the nascent talent that would come to define baseball greatness. Perhaps fittingly, when Young left Cleveland after the ‘98 season, the club let the 38-year-old Zimmer go, too. He was spared the indignity of laboring for next year’s “worst team in history” club that went 20-134. Chief went on to a pennant with Pittsburgh in 1901, catching HOF’er Jack Chesbro. In ‘03 Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss persuaded Zimmer to move to Philadelphia to manage the Phillies before retiring at 42.

  • Zimmer claimed no Native American heritage. The “Chief” was due to being the team leader on an early club so speedy as to be dubbed “Indians”
  • The Sporting Life wrote in 1890 that Zimmer was one of about 6 major leaguers who abstained from both liquor and tobacco. Despite his aversion to smoking, Zimmer made a fortune selling cigars, spreading his business to every city his ball club visited
  • Was elected 1st president of The Players’ Protective Association – predecessor to the MLB Players’ Association
  • An entrepreneur and wise investor, Zimmer was known to be one of the wealthiest players of his day
  • Zimmer famously invented Zimmer’s Base Ball Game, a mechanical parlor game popular in the 1890s

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