BOSTON – Seventy-two years on the planet, 54 of them in professional baseball, have done little to diminish Don Zimmer (search)'s fiery temper.
His experience has, however, taught him what to do when he is wrong.
A day after the New York Yankees' (search) coach left the bench to attack Red Sox (search) ace Pedro Martinez (search), Zimmer apologized for his role in the bench-clearing melee that marred Game 3 of the AL championship series and sent him to the hospital.
"I'm embarrassed at what happened," Zimmer said Sunday, fighting back tears. "I'm embarrassed for the Yankees, the Red Sox, the fans, the umpires and my family."
Asked if he was glad Zimmer apologized, Martinez replied, "No. I wish no man would have to apologize. It's not a good feeling to apologize."
Martinez told the Boston Herald on Sunday, "I'm just sorry he had to go through that. I'm sorry for him."
He also said, "If you go back and look at the whole incident, I don't know why he got so (obsessed) with what happened in the game. I'm just trying to pitch inside and get outs, because I needed outs at that point. I was the one in trouble. I'm not trying to dig myself a deeper hole."
Martinez told The Boston Globe, "I'd never, ever, ever, ever, ever, regardless of what he said or what he does, raised my hand to him (Zimmer)."
An already tense series between two archrivals grew more fierce when Martinez threw a pitch behind New York outfielder Karim Garcia's head in the fourth inning. Garcia slid hard into second base, upending Boston infielder Todd Walker, later in the inning, drawing players and coaches out of the dugouts for a staredown.
When the Red Sox came to bat, Manny Ramirez took exception to a pitch from Roger Clemens that sailed high. Although it was barely inside -- much closer to the plate than to Ramirez -- he began shouting at Clemens, moving at him with bat in hand.
That emptied the dugouts and bullpens for real, and Zimmer headed for Martinez. The former Red Sox manager lunged at his former team's biggest star, and Martinez sidestepped him, grabbed his head and pushed him to the ground.
Zimmer stayed there for a few minutes while trainers attended to him. Although he remained on the bench for the rest of the game, Zimmer went to the hospital afterward as a precaution.
On Sunday, Zimmer rage had subsided and he was trying to contain a whole new set of emotions. In an unexpected appearance at manager Joe Torre's pregame news conference, Zimmer made his brief statement before his voice broke down.
"That's all I have to say. I'm sorry," he said, getting up from his chair and leaving the interview room to return to the New York clubhouse. Torre gave him a pat on the back.
"I'm sure he wishes it didn't happen. But you get emotions, you get caught up in it, and as we all know, Don Zimmer is a very emotional, shoot-from-the-hip guy," Torre said. "I think we've all reacted to things and wish the next day or the next hour that we never did say it."
Zimmer was fined $5,000 Sunday by Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, according to a baseball executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Martinez was fined $50,000, Ramirez $25,000 and Garcia $10,000, the executive said.
Game 4 of the AL championship series was postponed by rain and rescheduled for Monday night. That meant another day of attention for a story Zimmer wishes would go away.
"I think he basically feels badly about all of the attention this had gotten," Torre said. "He's very proud, very independent, and yet (for) all of that gruff exterior, people who do know him understand what a softy he is."
Boston owner John Henry was pleased with Zimmer's apology and said he "wouldn't mind seeing the same thing coming from our side." Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar said he hoped Zimmer's remarks would put an end to the "sideshow."
Boston center fielder Johnny Damon acknowledged that the Red Sox also were to blame in the brawl.
"If I was involved, I'd apologize," he said. "But then, Zimmer wasn't coming after my life, he was coming after Pedro's."