Now 83, Zim is an adviser for his hometown Tampa Bay Rays. He couldn't talk for this story because he was under the weather, but there is something he once said about the end days of a manager that might be worth tucking away:
"I'll tell you when you know you're really in trouble, because I've been in that situation a few times. It's when your traveling secretary that you've had fun with, and this writer that you've had fun with and people that you talk to in the front office ... all of a sudden, they don't want to look at you. They're not mad at you, but they're embarrassed. Because they know something. They might have been told something. This is going to happen, maybe tomorrow or the next day. And you can smell a rat."
Shortly after he was fired by the Mariners, Lefebvre was hired by new general manager Larry Himes to replace interim manager Jim Essian. In his two years, Lefebvre flipped the Cubs from 78-84 to 84-78, only to get fired by Himes. Now retired, busy with charity work and content to listen to his son Ryan Lefebvre call games for the Royals, Lefebvre says the Cubs job was "the highlight of my career."
"I know Rick, and he's really bright, the right man for the job. He's got the greatest fans in the world, passionate but forgiving, appreciative if you put out a full effort. The press can be a little tough, so you need the support of management, which, unfortunately, I did not have. At the end of the '93 season, Himes and I spent three hours going over our plans for the club. The next day he fired me, telling me, 'I have to do what's best for me.' Nice, huh?
"That's been part of the problem for the Cubs: no continuity. But they've got some smart people running the club now, and hopefully they'll give him some time. What I would tell Rick is to establish an identity for the club and stay with that. Listen to your heart [pause] and not people like me."
The former high school teacher and Brewers manager lasted only a year, and a strike-shortened year at that. But he left a lasting impression when he held an impromptu town hall meeting at the fire station on Waveland Avenue after a double play killed a rally against the Rockies that would have ended the season-opening, eight-game losing streak.
"When a writer asked me after the game what I was going to tell the fans, I kiddingly said, 'Tell them I'm headed over to the firehouse to answer their questions.' I did like going over there and hanging with the firemen, but now, all of a sudden, word gets out and it's a media circus.
"It wasn't like the French Revolution or anything, but there I was, standing on a bench, talking to the mob and answering questions -- there was a radio guy up in some tree. It started out a little hostile, but pretty soon things were under control. They appreciated my honesty and willingness to answer their questions.
"I loved Chicago -- best city in the world if you take away the winter. A few years ago when I was with the Orioles and we were visiting the White Sox, I snuck back to visit Yosh Kawano, the clubhouse guy, and some of the men in the firehouse. I was honored that they still had my Cubs photo up in the bay.