Cubs fire Zimmer Altobelli is fill-in

May 22, 1991|By Andrew Bagnato | Andrew Bagnato,Chicago Tribune

NEW YORK -- Don Zimmer, who had given the Chicago Cubs a July 1 deadline for making a decision about his future, was fired as manager yesterday.

Cubs president Don Grenesko said the decision to fire Zimmer, who took over the team in 1988, was completed Monday.

The Cubs named hitting coach Joe Altobelli, who managed the Baltimore Orioles to the 1983 World Series championship, as interim manager, but there were indications that a permanent hire could come as early as today. Jim Essian, the Cubs' Class AAA Iowa manager, took an evening flight to New York to meet with Grenesko, general manager Jim Frey and Tribune Co. attorney Dennis Homerin, who handles the club's major contracts.

Speculation on a successor also centered on former New York Mets manager Davey Johnson, whom Frey praised as a "very good manager," and former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.

Altobelli didn't even last until the end of his first game as interi manager. He was ejected in the fifth inning of the Cubs' 8-6 loss to the Mets after arguing with plate umpire Steve Rippley.

Of Zimmer's dismissal, Grenesko said, "We started talking about it over the weekend, and we decided we had to do it."

But Zimmer planted the seeds for the move about two weeks ago. He confronted Grenesko after the Cubs' top executive said in a published report that the club would evaluate Zimmer at the end of the season instead of renewing his contract during the season. Grenesko told Zimmer it was Tribune Co. policy to evaluate all employees once a year.

"I said, 'You've got to live your life and I've got to live mine,' " Zimmer said he told Grenesko. "I want to know by July 1 where I stand. If you don't tell me by then, I'm walking at the end of the year. I don't care if we win the World Series."

Asked whether the ultimatum had forced the Cubs' hand, Grenesko said, "I think that's fair to say."

Grenesko said he had made the decision, quashing talk Frey had been forced to fire his childhood friend. Grenesko said he had been unhappy with the Cubs' poor start after management spent the winter signing high-priced free agents George Bell, Danny Jackson and Dave Smith. The Cubs went into last night's game with the Mets 18-19 and tied for last place, five games

behind the division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates.

TC Grenesko said, "We felt a change was necessary to jump-start the team."

Zimmer, 60, became the second manager to be fired this season, following the Philadelphia Phillies' Nick Leyva by three weeks.

AH : Don Zimmer's managerial record Regular season

Year.. .. .. .. .. W.. .. . . .. .. L.. .. Pct.. .. Fn

1972 San Diego.. 54.. .. .. .. .. 88.. . .380.. .. . 6

1973 San Diego.. 60.. .. .. .. . 102.. . .370.. .. . 6

1976 Boston.. .. 42.. .. .. .. .. 34.. . .553.. .. . 3

1977 Boston.. .. 97.. .. .. .. .. 64.. . .602.. .. . 2

1978 Boston.. .. 99.. .. .. .. .. 64.. ...607.. .. . 2

1979 Boston.. .. 91.. .. .. .. .. 69.. ...569.. .. . 3

1980 Boston.. .. 82.. .. .. .. .. 73.. ...529.. .. . 3

1981 Texas-x.. .. 57.. .. .. .. .. 48.. ...543.. .. . 2

1982 Texas.. .. . 38.. .. .. .. .. 58.. . .396.. .. . 6

1988 Chicago (N). 77.. .. .. .. .. 85.. . .475.. .. . 4

1989 Chicago (N)-y 93.. .. .. .. . 69.. . .574.. .. . 1

1990 Chicago (N). 77.. .. .. .. .. 85.. . .475.. .. . 4

1991 Chicago (N) .18.. .. .. .. .. 19.. . .486.. .. .4t

Totals.. .. .. . 885.. .. .. .. . 858.. . .508.. .. --

x-split season.

y-lost NL Championship Series.

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