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Joseph Paul "Joe" DiMaggio (November 25, 1914 – March 8, 1999), born Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., was an Americanmarker baseball player for the New York Yankees. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 1955. He was the middle of three brothers who each became major league center fielders, the others being Vince and Dom.

DiMaggio was a 3-time MVP winner and 13-time All-Star (the only player to be selected for the All-Star Game in every season he played). At the time of his retirement, he had the fifth-most career home runs (361) and sixth-highest slugging percentage (.579) in history. He is perhaps best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941), a record that still stands. A poll conducted to coincide with the centennial of professional baseball voted him the sport's greatest living player.

Early life

Joe DiMaggio was born in Martinezmarker, Californiamarker, the eighth of nine children born to immigrants from Italy, Giuseppe (1872–1949) and Rosalia (Mercurio) DiMaggio (1878–1951). He was delivered by a midwife identified on his birth certificate as Mrs. J. Pico. He was named after his father; "Paolo" was in honor of Giuseppe's favorite saint, Saint Paul. The family moved to San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker when Joe was one year old.

Giuseppe was a fisherman, as were generations of DiMaggios before him. DiMaggio's brother, Tom, told biographer Maury Allen that Rosalia's father, also a fisherman, wrote to her that Giuseppe could earn a better living in California than in their native Isola delle Femminemarker. After being processed on Ellis Islandmarker, he worked his way across the country, eventually settling near Rosalia's father in Pittsburgmarker, Californiamarker. After four years, he was able to earn enough money to send for her and their daughter, who was born after he had left for the United States.

It was Giuseppe's hope that his five sons would become fishermen. DiMaggio recalled that he would do anything to get out of cleaning his father's boat, as the smell of dead fish nauseated him. Giuseppe called him "lazy" and "good for nothing;" Giuseppe's opposition was due to not understanding how baseball could help DiMaggio "get away from the poverty" and make something of himself.

DiMaggio was playing semi-pro ball when Vince DiMaggio, playing for the San Francisco Seals, talked his manager into letting DiMaggio fill in at shortstop; he made his professional debut on October 1, 1932. From May 27 – July 25, , he got at least one hit in a PCL-record 61 consecutive games: "Baseball didn't really get into my blood until I knocked off that hitting streak. Getting a daily hit became more important to me than eating, drinking or sleeping."

In 1934, his career almost ended. Going to his sister's house for dinner, he tore the ligaments in his left knee while stepping out of a jitney. The Seals, hoping to sell DiMaggio's contract for $100,000 now couldn't give him away; the Chicago Cubs turned down a no-risk tryout. Scout Bill Essick pestered the New York Yankees to give the 19 year-old another look. After DiMaggio passed a test on his knee, he was bought on November 21 for $25,000 and 5 players, with the Seals keeping him for the 1935 season. He batted .398 with 154 RBIs and 34 HRs, led the Seals to the PCL title, and was named the League's Most Valuable Player.

"The Yankee Clipper"

Touted by sportswriters as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Shoeless Joe Jackson rolled into one, DiMaggio made his major league debut on May 3, 1936, batting ahead of Lou Gehrig. The Yankees had not been to the World Series since 1932, but, thanks in large part to their sensational rookie, they won the next four Fall Classics. In total, DiMaggio led the Yankees to nine titles in 13 years.

DiMaggio was an outstanding "five tool" player. Hank Greenberg told SPORT magazine in its September 1949 issue that DiMaggio covered so much ground in center field that the only way to get a hit against the Yankees was "to hit 'em where Joe wasn't." An indication of his speed and astutness as a baserunner are the five steals of home that he accomplished in his career. He also had as many Strikeouts as home runs in his career.

Through May 2009 DiMaggio was tied for third all-time with Mark McGwire in home runs over his first two calendar years in the major leagues (77), behind Phillies Hall of Famemarker Chuck Klein (83) and Ryan Braun (79).

On February 7, 1949, DiMaggio signed a record contract worth $100,000 ($70,000 plus bonuses), and became the first baseball player to break $100,000 in earnings. He was still regarded as the game's best, and hardest working player, but injuries plagued him so much that he could no longer take a step without pain. A sub-par season and a brutal scouting report by the Brooklyn Dodgers that was turned over to the New York Giants and leaked to the press combined with his injuries, led to him announcing his retirement on December 11, 1951. When remarking on his retirement to the Sporting News on December 19, 1951, he said "I feel like I have reached the stage where I can no longer produce for my club, my manager, and my teammates. I had a poor year, but even if I had hit .350, this would have been my last year. I was full of aches and pains and it had become a chore for me to play. When baseball is no longer fun, it's no longer a game, and so, I've played my last game."

He became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 1953. DiMaggio told Baseball Digest in 1963 that the Brooklyn Dodgers had offered him their managerial job in 1953, but he turned it down. He was not elected to the Hall until 1955; the rules were revised in the interim, with DiMaggio and Ted Lyons excepted, extending the waiting period from one year to five.

He might have had better power-hitting statistics had his home park not been Yankee Stadiummarker. As "The House That Ruth Built", its nearby right field favored the Babe's left-handed power. For right-handed hitters, its deep left and center fields could be scary: Mickey Mantle recalled that he and Whitey Ford would count the blasts DiMaggio hit that would have been home runs anywhere else, but, at the Stadium, were merely long outs (Ruth himself fell victim to that problem, as he also hit many long fly outs to center). Bill James calculated that DiMaggio lost more home runs due to his home park than any other player in history. Left-center field went as far back as 457 ft, compared to ballparks today where left-center rarely reaches 380 ft. An illustration is the oft-replayed clip of Al Gionfriddo's catch in the 1947 World Series, which was close to the 415 foot mark in left-center. Had it happened in Ebbets Fieldmarker, it would have been well into the seats for a home run. To illustrate, DiMaggio hit 148 home runs in 3,360 at-bats at home, and in contrast, he hit 213 home runs in 3,461 at-bats on the road. His slugging percentage at home was .546, and on the road, it was .610. His on-base percentage at Yankee Stadium was .391; away, it was .405. He drove in 720 RBI at home, and 817 on the road. Expert statistician, Bill Jenkinson, elaborated on the importance of these statistics:

From: The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, by Bill Jenkinson:

For example, Joe DiMaggio was acutely handicapped by playing at Yankee Stadium. Every time he batted in his home field during his entire career, he did so knowing that it was physically impossible for him to hit a home run to the half of the field directly in front of him. If you look at a baseball field from foul line to foul line, it has a 90-degree radius. From the power alley in left center field (430 in Joe's time) to the fence in deep right center field (407 ft), it is 45-degrees. And Joe DiMaggio never hit a single home run over the fences at Yankee Stadium in that 45-degree graveyard. It was just too far. Joe was plenty strong; he routinely hit balls in the 425-foot range. But that just wasn't good enough in cavernous Yankee Stadium. Like Ruth, he benefited from a few easy homers each season due to the short foul line distances. But he lost many more than he gained by constantly hitting long fly outs toward center field. Whereas most sluggers perform better on their home fields, DiMaggio hit only 41 percent of his career home runs in the Bronx. He hit 148 homers at Yankee Stadium. If he had hit the same exact pattern of batted balls with a typical modern stadium as his home, he would have belted about 225 homers during his home field career.


In 1947, Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey and Yankees GM Larry MacPhail verbally agreed to trade DiMaggio for Ted Williams, but MacPhail refused to include Yogi Berra. Had the deal gone through, Williams could have benefited from Yankee Stadium's short right-center fence while DiMaggio could have thrived at Fenway Parkmarker with its Green Monster.

Wartime

DiMaggio enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces on February 17, 1943, rising to the rank of sergeant. He was stationed at Santa Anamarker, Californiamarker; Hawaiimarker; and Atlantic Citymarker, New Jerseymarker as a physical education instructor. He was discharged in September 1945.

Giuseppe and Rosalia DiMaggio were among the thousands of German, Japanese and Italian immigrants classified as "enemy aliens" by the government after Pearl Harbormarker was bombed by Japan. They had to carry photo ID booklets at all times, and were not allowed to travel outside a five mile radius from their home without a permit. Giuseppe was barred from the San Francisco Baymarker, where he had fished for decades, and his boat was seized. Rosalia became an American citizen in 1944; Giuseppe in 1945.

Married life

Dorothy Arnold

In January 1937, DiMaggio met actress Dorothy Arnold on the set of Manhattan Merry Go-Round, in which he had a minor role and she was an extra. They married at San Francisco's St. Peter and Paul Church on 19 November 1939 as 20,000 well-wishers jammed the streets. Their son, Joseph Paul DiMaggio III was born at Doctors Hospital on 23 October 1941.

Even before their son was born, the marriage was in trouble. DiMaggio was like many ballplayers: a high-school dropout whose life revolved around the game. While not the man about town that Babe Ruth was, he had his fun, leaving Dorothy feeling neglected. However, she was an ambitious social climber who took advantage of her status as the wife of baseball's biggest star. DiMaggio biographer Michael Seidel reported that, except on the nights before Lefty Gomez was to pitch, Dorothy and Lefty's wife, Broadwaymarker star June O'Dea, would drag their husbands from one Manhattanmarker nightspot to another. He resented how she complained about his off-the-field activities while she spent his money. But when Dorothy threatened to leave him in 1942, the usually unflappable DiMaggio went into a slump, and developed ulcers. She went to Renomarker, Nevadamarker in February 1943; he followed her there, and they reconciled. But shortly after he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Hawaiimarker, she filed for divorce, which was granted on 12 May 1944. She received $500 a month in alimony, custody of Joe Jr. and $150 in child support.

Marilyn Monroe

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe staying at Imperial Hotel in Tokyo on their honeymoon.
According to her autobiography, Marilyn Monroe did not want to meet DiMaggio, fearing he was a stereotypical jock. Both were at different points in their lives: the just-retired DiMaggio wanted to settle down, and Monroe's career was taking off. Their elopement at San Francisco City Hallmarker on January 14, 1954 was the culmination of a courtship that had captivated the nation.

The relationship was complex, marred by his jealousy and her ambition. DiMaggio biographer Richard Ben Cramer asserts that it was also violent. One incident allegedly happened after the skirt-blowing scene in The Seven Year Itch was filmed on September 14, 1954 in front of New York's Trans-Lux Theater. Then-20th Century Fox's East Coast correspondent Bill Kobrin told the Palm Springs Desert Sun that it was Billy Wilder's idea to turn the shoot into a circus. The couple then had a "yelling battle" in the theater lobby. She filed for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty 274 days after the wedding.

An August 1, 1956 International News wire photo of DiMaggio with Lee Meriwether speculated that the couple was engaged, but Cramer wrote that it was a rumor started by Walter Winchell. Monroe biographer Donald Spoto wrote that DiMaggio was "very close to marrying" 1957 Miss America Marian McKnight, who won the crown with a Marilyn Monroe act, but McKnight denied it. He was also linked to Liz Renay, Cleo Moore, Rita Gam, Marlene Dietrich, and Gloria DeHaven during this period, and to Elizabeth Ray and Morgan Fairchild years later, but he never publicly confirmed any involvement with any woman.

DiMaggio re-entered Monroe's life as her marriage to Arthur Miller was ending. On February 10, 1961, he secured her release from Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. She joined him in Florida where he was a batting coach for the Yankees. Their "just friends" claim did not stop remarriage rumors from flying. Reporters staked out her apartment building. Bob Hope "dedicated" Best Song nominee "The Second Time Around" to them at the 33rd Academy Awards.

According to Maury Allen, DiMaggio was so alarmed at how Monroe had fallen in with people he felt detrimental to her well-being, he quit his job with a military post-exchange supplier on 1 August 1962 to ask her to remarry him; she was found dead on August 5. DiMaggio's son, Joe Jr., had spoken to Monroe on the phone the night of her death, and had claimed she seemed fine. Her death was deemed a probable suicide but has been the subject of endless conspiracy theories. Devastated, he claimed her body and arranged her funeral, barring Hollywood's elite. He had a half-dozen red roses delivered 3 times a week to her crypt forever. Unlike her other two husbands or others who knew her (or claimed to), he refused to talk about her publicly or otherwise exploit their relationship. He never married again.

Death

DiMaggio's grave
DiMaggio was admitted to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Floridamarker, on October 12, 1998, for lung cancer surgery and remained hospitalized there for the next 99 days. He returned to his Florida home on January 19, where he died on March 8, 1999. On his deathbed and with his last breath, DiMaggio said "I'll finally get to see Marilyn".

On March 11, 1999, DiMaggio's funeral was held at Ss.marker Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Churchmarker in San Franciscomarker, and officiated by lifelong friend and DiMaggio confidant, Armand Oliveri, S.D.B. In his eulogy, Dom DiMaggio declared that his brother had everything "except the right woman to share his life with", a remark seeming to confirm the family's disapproval of Monroe. Richard Ben Cramer told the New York Times that Dom cooperated with him on his controversial biography, and got other family members to do likewise. Joe DiMaggio's estranged son, Joe, Jr., died later that same year. Joe Jr. was 57 years old when he died. As a tribute to their lifelong friendship, Oliveri refuses to discuss any details of DiMaggio's life.

DiMaggio is interred at Holy Cross Cemeterymarker in Colma, Californiamarker. (Section I, Row 11, Area 6/7)

The New York Yankees wore a black No. 5 patch on their jersey sleeve to honor Dimaggio during the 1999 season.

In popular culture



On January 10, 1977, Joe DiMaggio was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford. He was represented at the ceremony by his brother, Dominick DiMaggio.

DiMaggio was used by artists as a touchstone in popular culture both during his career and decades after he retired.

Music

In the South Pacific song, "Bloody Mary" has "skin tender as DiMaggio's glove". Joltin' Joe DiMaggio was recorded during his hitting streak by Les Brown.

A generation later, Simon & Garfunkel used him in that same vein in "Mrs. Robinson". The literal-minded DiMaggio was reportedly not fond of the lyric "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you" as he was very much alive, and had not gone anywhere. When he died The Times of London observed in its obituary that the lines from "Mrs Robinson" were what DiMaggio would be most remembered for. In their eulogical report on DiMaggio, ESPN SportsCenter quoted the last line of the song: "What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin' Joe has left and gone away?" A tributory newspaper comic strip shows DiMaggio standing in front of the pearly gates in his Yankees uniform, holding his bat on his shoulder. St. Peter, in foreground, writes in his book: "Memo to Mr. Simon & Mr. Garfunkel: he's here."

DiMaggio is mentioned in John Fogerty's "Center Field." He and Monroe are mentioned in Jennifer Lopez's "I'm Gonna Be Alright," Madonna's "Vogue," Tori Amos's "Father Lucifer," Sleeper's "Romeo Me," Simon & Garfunkel "Mrs. Robinson," The Mike Plume Band's "DiMaggio", Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire, and Bon Jovi's "Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars".

Les Brown & His Band of Renown had a big hit in 1941 after DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak called "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio". It peaked at #12 on the Billboard charts.

DiMaggio was also mentioned in a Tom Waits song "A Sight For Sore Eyes" from the album "Foreign Affairs"

Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics to "DiMaggio Done It Again" about his performance in a crucial series against the Red Sox in June 1949 when surgery for bone spurs in his right heel kept him out of the Yankees' first 65 games and threatened his career. It is during this period Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is set, Santiago drawing courage from his hero's ordeal. The lyrics were set to music and recorded by Billy Bragg for the 2000 album Mermaid Avenue Vol. II).

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe's relationship is cited in a number of songs. Diesel Boy Song, "She's My Queen." "She is my queen, she's my Marilyn, and I'm her Joe DiMaggio." Man From Delmonte's "Beautiful People": "I can be your Miss Monroe and you can be my Joe DiMaggio and we can do the things beautiful people like to do."

The great Orthodox Jewish composer Abie Rotenberg in 1995 wrote a song titled "The Great Jo DiMaggio's Card" (Journeys III volume), which tells the story of two young boys who were inseparable friends at youth. One of the boys happens to buy Jo Dimaggio's card, and hides it in his drawer. When later approached by card collectors offering him a million Dollars, he refuses each offer. Later in life, the second boy (named Sammy) grows more spiritual, and eventuates as the dean of the boys' former Yeshiva school. When a fire ravages the yeshiva building, the owner of the card reaches in his drawer, and says his goodbyes to the card, raising the funds to rebuild his friends' yeshiva. As a grandfather, one of his grandchildren presents him with a (Rabbi's) card, of Sammy (now Rav Shmuel) who is a great scholar and a leader of Orthodox Jewry.

Television

DiMaggio was referenced by the character Fred Mertz in the I Love Lucy episode Lucy is Enceinte when he proclaims him to be "the best darn ball player the Yankees ever had."

He was referenced in the Seinfeld episode "The Note" when Kramer claims to see him in a donut shop (and insists that he dips his donuts in coffee, to the disbelief of his friends).

In The Simpsons episode "'Tis The Fifteenth Season," Mr. Burns gives Homer Simpson a DiMaggio rookie card (Burns sneers: "Apparently, they're allowing ethnics into the big leagues").

DiMaggio's consecutive game hitting streak was also a point of reference in the Star Trek universe. In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Harmon "Buck" Bokai of the London Kings, a favorite player of Commander Sisko, breaks DiMaggio's streak.

Commercials

In 1971, Italian industrial design firm Poltronova released the "Joe" chair, shaped like a gigantic baseball glove. The original brown leather versions are considered collectors' items.

From 1972 to 1992, DiMaggio was spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bankmarker.

In 1974, he became the company spokesman for Mr. Coffee; and soon after Harvey Korman spoofed DiMaggio's commercials in a Carol Burnett Show episode.

Film

He appeared in the original Angels in the Outfield and The First of May. The First of May was DiMaggio's last and most involved motion picture cameo, requiring that he memorize lines for an entire scene. According to director Paul Sirmons, DiMaggio refused payment because the movie's subject, foster children, was dear to him, but Screen Actors Guild rules mandated he take the minimum $250 per day fee. DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak (which was in progress at the time of filming) was mentioned by Lou Costello in the 1942 film, Ride 'Em Cowboy.

In the 1975 film version of Farewell, My Lovely, Philip Marlowe (Robert Mitchum) follows the streak throughout the story.

Art

DiMaggio appears behind Marilyn Monroe in The Crowning with Sexism (1994) by the Australian artist Susan Dorothea White in her re-interpretation of Hieronymus Bosch's composition Christ Crowned with Thorns.

Literature

In Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, the young boy told the old man that he was afraid of Cleveland. The old man told him: "Don't doubt the Yankees just yet. Have faith in the great DiMaggio." An extensive bibliography of literature about DiMaggio can be found in Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, edited by Richard Gilliam (Da Capo Press, 1999).

Comics

DiMaggio appears in issue 27 of the comic book series 100 Bullets written by Brian Azzarello.Later in the story we learn that he was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination plot along with the assistance of Agent Graves.

DiMaggio also teamed up with Dr. Octopus in Amazing Spider-Man #257 in tribute to the "ol' Yankee Kazoo."

Sports legacy

Stephen Jay Gould often wrote of DiMaggio's hitting streak, was an unpredictable anomaly based on statistical analysis, the only sports record that was an unpredictable anomaly, and therefore the greatest feat in all of sports. At his death in 1999, the New York Times called DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941, "perhaps the most enduring record in sports".

His hitting streak has been used as a standard to compare similar feats in other sports. Johnny Unitas throwing at least 1 TD in 47 consecutive games is often cited as football's version. Martina Navratilova referred to her 74 straight match wins as "my DiMaggio streak." Wayne Gretzky's 51-game point-scoring run also was compared with the streak. DiMaggio was less than impressed, quoted as saying that Gretzky (who scored an empty-net goal in the final moments of a game to keep the streak alive) "never had to worry about a mid-game washout in the middle of the second period."

In an article in 1976 in Esquire magazine, sportswriter Harry Stein published an "All Time All-Star Argument Starter," consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Joe DiMaggio was the center fielder on Stein's Italian team.

On September 17, 1992, the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, opened, for which he raised over $4,000,000.

Yankee Stadiummarker's fifth monument was dedicated to DiMaggio on April 25, 1999, and the West Side Highway was officially renamed in his honor. The Yankees wore DiMaggio's number 5 on the left sleeves of their uniforms for the 1999 season. He is ranked #11 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was elected by fans to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

An auction of DiMaggio's personal items was held on May 19-20, 2006 by his son's adopted daughters. Highlights included: the ball hit to break Wee Willie Keeler's hitting-streak record ($63,250); 2,000th career hit ball ($29,900); 1947 Most Valuable Player Award ($281,750); uniform worn in the 1951 World Series ($195,500); Hall of Fame ring ($69,000); photograph Marilyn autographed "I love you Joe" ($80,500); her passport ($115,000); their marriage certificate ($23,000). The event netted a total of $4.1 million.

He was pictured with his son on the cover of the inaugural issue of SPORT magazine in September, 1946.

References

  1. Schwartz, Larry. Joltin' Joe was a hit for all reason, ESPN, accessed on March 12, 2009.
  2. Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Figures, 2008 Edition, p.210, David Nemec and Scott Flatow, A Signet Book, Penguin Group, New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-451-22363-0
  3. Sandler, Jeremy, "NL Weekly: The Notebook," National Post, May 27, 2009, accessed 5/28/09
  4. ESPN.com - Page2 - The List: Baseball's biggest rumors
  5. "JOE DIMAGGIO 1914-1999" San Francisco Examiner 9 March 1999 Accessed 4 August 2009
  6. South Carolina’s first Miss America, Marian McKnight The Hartsville Messenger 20 May 2005 (has been removed from site)
  7. Huber, Robert. 1999. "Joe DiMaggio Would Appreciate It Very Much If You'd Leave Him the Hell Alone." Esquire 131, no. 6: 82. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost
  8. http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00014154.html
  9. http://www.thedeadballera.com/Obits/Dimaggio.JoeJr.Obit.html"The Obit for Joe Dimaggio Jr." The Deadball Era. 8 July 1999. 11 Feb. 2009.
  10. Paul Simon, "The Silent Superstar," The New York Times, March 9, 1999.
  11. The First of May Official Site
  12. http://www.thesportgallery.com/products/covers/1946_sept.html


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