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Zimmer plenty charged-up

After he'd showered yesterday, the Yankees' septuagenarian contendah sat in his briefs in front of his locker, a bit bewildered by the crowd of questioners who were standing between him and his postgame chow.

"I have nothing to say, nothing," Don Zimmer declared, after he'd taken an enraged run at Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez during the fourth-inning fracas between the clubs. "We won the game. That's all that counts."

Though Zimmer's playing days are long behind him, he was as eager to take on Martinez as if the Sox ace had drilled him with the same pitch that buzzed right fielder Karim Garcia. "You know, he's dead serious," said Roger Clemens, before the 72-year-old Zimmer was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to be checked out. "Even though he can't play or get it done, he's serious."

After being badly beaned twice, Zimmer takes head-hunting personally. "The fact that he was hit in the head," mused Yankee pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, "he gets pretty upset because he'd been on the other end of that."

In 1953, playing in the minors for St. Paul, Zimmer spent 13 days in a coma after being hit by a fastball. Then, playing for the Dodgers in 1956, Zimmer was drilled in the face by the Cubs' Hal Jeffcoat and suffered a fractured cheekbone and a damaged eye, which required him to wear blindfolds for six weeks and special glasses for six more and spelled the beginning of the end of what had been a promising career. "Yeah, I think I could have been somebody," Zimmer said two decades later.

So Zimmer was furious after Martinez hit Garcia in the top of the fourth, shouting at the righthander from the dugout steps. Then, when the benches emptied in the bottom of the inning after Clemens's high fastball to Manny Ramirez, Zimmer, with his hands raised, made a bull-like charge at the startled Martinez, before the pitcher grabbed him and shoved him to the ground.

Of all the bizarre moments that have happened at the old brick ballyard in the Fens, this was unique -- a former Red Sox manager taking a run at the franchise jewel in what was perhaps the most lopsided mismatch in baseball history. "I wouldn't have hit him," Martinez said later. "I could never do it."

For a moment, the encounter seemed ludicrous, almost humorous. Someone asked Sox general manager Theo Epstein whether he'd considered sending Johnny Pesky, the club's 84-year-old hitting instructor, out to take on Zimmer in a more age-appropriate matchup. "Got to admit, the thought crossed my mind," joked Epstein.

Still, the sight of Zimmer lying stunned on the diamond was sobering to the Yankees, who feared that their beloved Buddha might be badly injured. "I saw a bald head on the ground," said Clemens. "We weren't sure if it was Zimm or Boomer [pitcher David Wells]. I was like, `Oh, my gosh,' and he wasn't getting up."

The tumble seemed to stun Zimmer. "He didn't look too good, to be honest," said Stottlemyre. "I thought maybe he had the wind knocked out of him."

Zimmer stayed on the bench for the remainder of the game, though, with a small adhesive strip across his nose and showed no ill effects later. "Are you OK?" he was asked as he reached for his shoes. "I'm good enough to get dressed," Zimmer replied. "I'm going to eat dinner -- somewhere."

After heading for the trainer's room to finish dressing, Zimmer was accompanied by a cordon of half a dozen security guards and medical attendants as he walked from the visiting clubhouse behind third base to an exit past the home clubhouse on the first base side. There, he was strapped onto a wheeled stretcher and loaded onto an ambulance, but he was expected to be back in uniform for tonight's game.

"That's Zimm," said Clemens. "He's got more fire than half those guys in the dugout, and that's why I love him."

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