Joe DiMaggio

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you….” lamented the lyrical duo of Simon and Garfunkel during the tumultuous 1960s. Seeking a mantra to combat the riots in the cities and a war that would kill 58,000 young Americans, they harkened back to a more peaceful time when one man embodied all that was good in the United States.

And we loved the song because we loved the man.

Many say Joe was the greatest ball player who ever lived. Red Sox fans would counter that Ted Williams owned that coveted moniker. But Joe’s Yankees won all the World Series and the Red Sox won none during their respective baseball years.

When Joe was sold to the New York Yankees in 1935, the last season Babe Ruth played baseball, he replaced Ruth as the leader of the Yankees and won the World Series the first four years he played from 1936 through 1939.

The most admired American in 1941 (FDR came in second) Joe hit in 56 straight games, a record that will never be broken. His streak stopped when a Cleveland third-baseman went deep behind third twice to throw Joe out at first by a step. Undaunted, the Yankee Clipper went on to hit safely in 16 of the next 17 games. Had he beaten out just one of those groundouts, he would have had a 72 game hitting streak.

Noted band leader Les Brown recorded a patriotic song during the Second World War, commenting, “Joe, Joe DiMaggio, we want you on our side.” It sold big.

A very introverted man, he never was showy but rather was the quintessential team player, even encouraging his center field successor, Mickey Mantle, on the fine art of playing center field in the varied configured outfields throughout the league.

An extremely proud man, he never forgave Yankee manager Casey Stengel for interrupting a game, late in Joe’s career, to have him ignominiously return to the dugout after the inning had started, to better solidify the outfield. Joe had owned the cavernous extremities of Yankee Stadium for years, always positioning himself gracefully to make the catch, all the while daring runners to tag up. They seldom tried.

He and Stengel hardly spoke after that embarrassing incident, although Stengel later described Joe thusly… “Joe DiMaggio makes all other baseball players look like plumbers.”

After his retirement, the iconic DiMaggio became a spokesperson for both the Bowery Savings Bank and Mister Coffee for many years, keeping him continually in the public eye.

He married movie star Marilyn Monroe who sadly took her own life at just 36 years. Joe became more reclusive after that, appearing less often at Old Timer games.

An incredible hitter over his entire career, statistics show that at any Yankee game, Joe was two-and-a-half times more likely to get a double, triple or home run, than he was to strike out.

That’s how legendary “Jolting’ Joe DiMaggio” was.

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9 responses to “Joe DiMaggio

  1. PAUL E LARKIN

    Well, you have poked this bear! I stand by my previously expressed opinion that the Babe was the greatest ever. Keep in mind, he could also pitch. His hitting record remains unmatched. While Joe was truly one of the greats, no doubt, I would submit an argument for the great Willie Mays, as great if not better. And I disagree strongly that he assisted Mantle in any way…period, he was actually somewhat miffed that Mantle came in with such promise, ie, that he would “take his place”. Further, I do not believe, in a team game like baseball, that you can measure Joe D vs Williams ( or any other such comparisons) by championships. While the Sox had strong teams, the Yanks were always stronger in those days, that is not in doubt. Lastly, and certainly unrelated to play on the field, DiMaggio was not only a jerk but first class cheap, there is much evidence of this, as you must know. Lastly, while the 56 game streak remains an iconic record that will most likely not be broken, keep in mind that during those 56 games, Ted Williams had a higher batting average.

    • Interesting comments, Paul. I think the number of championships won truly helps to define a player. I feel Bill Russell is the greatest basketball player because of his winning all those titles for the Celtics. I choose not to dwell on negative aspects of sports. Hence no mention of off field proclivities ever in my scribbling. Willie Mays admittedly was a wonderful ball player. If you are a hockey fan up there in Beantown, tell that Boston first line to regain that spark they had in game one in order to catch the Lightning. Friday night game is key for both teams.

      • PAUL E LARKIN

        The problem is, coach, that there are so many great players that have not won either a championship or only one or two. Having grown up in Boston in the Russell era, I should be biased, but the issue is “great winner” or great player? There is no greater winner in major sports than Russ, two NCAA’s, one Olympic and 11 NBA (keep in mind, second the other two yrs)…but best player? I don’t think so, Jordon, for sure, Magic, even Bird as a Celt plus some current guys in hoop. Championships are important, but does that mean Fran Tarkenton was not a great QB? Vladimir Guarraro (sp?) not a great baseball player? How about Barkley? Orr only won once? There are any number of these HOFers in all sports that never won one or only one, you have to have a team! One great player is important but its the supporting cast that makes the championships, my view! I mean, Russell played with Cousy, Heinsohn, Sam Jones, Havilchek, on and on, btw, several other HOFs that don’t come to mind, its nighty nite.

  2. What a great story – now I want coffee!! Go bolts ⚡️

  3. Very nice, Coach. Growing up in Palo Alto Cal., I remember listening to the Yankees world series on the radio; Joe was my hero. He was, of course, from San Fran – and had his bros in MLB as well.

    Did the NYG hit the jackpot with SB? Should help Manning a lot.

    Love these nostalgia filled narratives.

    Regards,

    Jack White

    • Jack, I think Eli might have three good years left. If that happens and Barkley is as good as advertised, it was a good choice to take him and not a quarterback such as Darnold of USC. If Eli tanks, the newspapers in NYC will crucify the Giants GM, especially if Darnold hits it big with the Jets.

  4. Robert Chambers

    Hey Coach thank you for the post and the tie into our country’s moral and value erosion. However on a positive note the post on “Joltin’ Joe” has me thinking that there is an opportunity for a post on famous or infamous sports figures named Joe that have famous or infamous nicknames. You Joltin’ Joe, Smokin’ Joe, Joe Willie White Shoes, etc.

  5. We have iconic sports figures in this day and age but not too many were commemorated in song and with meaning like Joe.

    Never got to see him play but damn, what a swing.

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