November 23, 1860|
|Died: August 22, 1949
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|July 18, 1884 for the Detroit Wolverines|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 27, 1903 for the Philadelphia Phillies|
|Career highlights and awards|
Charles Louis Zimmer (November 23, 1860 in Marietta, Ohio – August 22, 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio) was a professional baseball catcher. He played for 19 seasons in Major League Baseball between 1884 and 1903, playing for the Detroit Wolverines (1884), New York Metropolitans (1886), Cleveland Blues/Spiders (1887–99), Louisville Colonels (1899), Pittsburgh Pirates (1900–02), and Philadelphia Phillies (1903). He was also the player/manager for the Phillies in 1903. Zimmer played in 1280 major league games, including 1239 as a catcher. He had a career batting average of .269 with a .339 on-base percentage, 1227 hits, 617 runs scored, 222 doubles, 76 triples, 26 home runs, 625 RBIs, 151 stolen bases, and 390 bases on balls. His career fielding percentage as a catcher was .952 (16 points higher than the average catcher of his era) with 4883 putouts, 1580 assists and 135 double plays.
Zimmer is credited with being the first catcher (in 1887) to play directly behind the plate on every play. Prior to 1887, catchers typically positioned themselves farther back of the plate with runners on base. Zimmer was considered one of the finest defensive catchers of his day. He led the National League in putouts in 1891 and 1900 and in assists in 1890 and 1891. In 1895 he batted a career-high .340.
In 1894, Zimmer became one of the first hitters to get six hits in a single game, off Win Mercer. He also helped Cleveland win the 1895 Temple Cup, the equivalent at that time of the World Series. While playing for Cleveland, Zimmer was Cy Young's catcher for the first half of Young's career, and a close friend of Young.
Despite his nickname, "Chief" Zimmer was not of American Indian descent. Zimmer said he got the nickname while playing for Poughkeepsie as captain and manager. "Since we were fleet of foot, we were called the Indians. As I was the head man of the Indians, somebody began to call me 'Chief.' It stuck."
After retiring from baseball, Zimmer worked as a cabinet-maker, cigar roller, and owned and managed at least two minor league baseball teams. He is prominently featured in "Zimmer's Base Ball Game," a baseball table game that was popular in the 1890s and which is now a valuable collectible. Although his name is affixed to the game, Zimmer, nor did the game-making behemoth McLoughlin Bros. It was a man named Joseph A. Meaher of Cleveland who got the idea patented in February 1893, according to Tom Shieber, senior curator for the Baseball Hall of Fame. While Meaher was likely responsible for the game’s set-up as well as the painting of the field and the children peeking over the one-and-a-half inch outfield wall, it was no doubt McLoughlin Bros. – revered for their lithographs – that created the instructions along with the image of Zimmer and 18 other portraits, including 11 Hall of Famers.
While a good but not great baseball player (he was not a Hall of Famer), Zimmer was one of the first athletes to actively pursue self-marketing. In addition to the board game, Zimmer endorsed a line of cigars.
Zimmer died in Cleveland, Ohio at age 88.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- The Deadball Era
- Bill James (2003). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2722-0.