Joseph Paul "Joe" DiMaggio (November 25, 1914 March 8, 1999), born Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., was an American baseball player for the New York Yankees. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame 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 15July 16, 1941), a record that still stands. A 1969 poll conducted to coincide with the centennial of professional baseball voted him the sport's greatest living player.
DiMaggio was born in Martinez, California, the eighth of nine children born to immigrants from Italy, Giuseppe (18721949) and Rosalia (Mercurio) DiMaggio (18781951). 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 Francisco, California 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 Femmine. After being processed on Ellis Island, he worked his way across America, eventually settling near Rosalia's father in Pittsburg, California. 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, 1933, 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, at the time were hoping to sell DiMaggio's contract for $100,000. Scout Bill Essick of the New York Yankees, was convinced the Joe could overcome his knee injury and pestered the club 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 1935 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 Famer 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 1951 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 Fame 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 Stadium. 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 were almost impossible to get a home run: 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 Field, 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 Park with its Green Monster.
DiMaggio enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces on February 17, 1943, rising to the rank of sergeant. He was stationed at Santa Ana, California; Hawaii; and Atlantic City, New Jersey 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 Harbor 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 Bay, where he had fished for decades, and his boat was seized. Rosalia became an American citizen in 1944; Giuseppe in 1945.
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 November 19, 1939, as 20,000 well-wishers jammed the streets. Their son, Joseph Paul DiMaggio III was born at Doctors Hospital on October 23, 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, Broadway star June O'Dea, would drag their husbands from one Manhattan 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 Reno, Nevada in February 1943; he followed her there, and they reconciled. But shortly after he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Hawaii, she filed for divorce, which was granted on May 12, 1944. She received $500 a month in alimony, custody of Joe Jr. and $150 in child support.
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 Hall 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.
On 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 for 20 years. 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.
DiMaggio was admitted to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, on October 12, 1998, for lung cancer surgery and remained there for the next 99 days. He returned to his Florida home on January 19, where he died on March 8, 1999.
On March 11, 1999, DiMaggio's funeral was held at Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in San Francisco 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. DiMaggio's son died that August at age 57. DiMaggio is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery (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.
Photograph shows Jo DiMaggio and son (Joe Jr.) on June 25th, 1953 with surfboard in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach, Oahu Hawaii and was Hand Oil Tinted by artist Margaret A. Rogers.