Sports Stars

Baseball

Joe DiMaggio

DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941 remains one of baseball's most cherished records. As a young player he teamed with Lou Gehrig to lead some of the best Yankee teams ever. As an older player he formed a powerful lineup with Johnny Mize and Yogi Berra. When he retired, young star Mickey Mantle arrived to fill his shoes. Baseball fans soon realized that no one would ever accomplish that.

According to many eye witnesses, DiMaggio was the best all-around player of his time. He could hit, hit for power, throw, field, and run. He bridged the Gehrig era to the Mantle era. He was a winner: playing on ten pennant winners and failing to win the World Series just once in those ten tries.

He retired when he could have played a few more years and won some more titles. But that wasn't his style. He moved aside to make way for Mickey Mantle. Joe DiMaggio lived the life of an American Hero. In an amazing life as an American icon, DiMaggio married Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, becoming the envy of every American male. Even after they split, DiMaggio remained in the spotlight as a spokesman for several products, including the Mr. Coffee maker.

DiMaggio came from a baseball family, his two brothers also were major leaguers. Dominic was the better of the two siblings, starring with the Red Sox, earning All-Star status and Hall of Fame support from teammate Ted Williams. Vince was best known for his defense and the long swing which led to him lead the league in strikeouts six times in his ten year career.

DiMaggio frequently battled the Yankees over his salary and was once almost traded straight up for Williams, in what would have been the biggest deal in baseball history. The Yankees benefited from his leadership, as DiMaggio helped break in Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle.

In 1969, as Major League Baseball celebrated the 100th anniversary of professional baseball, DiMaggio was voted the "Greatest Living Player."

Chasing .400
As the 1939 season drew to a close, 24-year old Joe DiMaggio was on the brink of baseball history.

"I remember there were about three weeks to go in the season and I had a plus-.400 batting average," Joe recalled in 1963. "I figured I was odds-on to finish the year with a .400 mark. I remember Joe McCarthy calling me into his office and telling me he didn't think I wanted to be a cheese champion so he was going to play me every day, even though the pennant was about clinched."

"I agreed, but a few days later I got this terrible pain over my right eye. I didn't tell anyone, and I went to a doctor who gave me Novocain shots over the eye to kill the pain. I was taking a terrible chance, but I never thought of the consequences. All I wanted to do was stay in the lineup and hit .400. I didn't make it though."

DiMaggio finished the season at .381, winning his first batting title and Most Valuable Player Award.

Position
Center field

Major League Debut: May 3, 1936; Dimaggio's debut was delayed by his contract holdout.

Feats
His record 56-game hitting streak has stood for more than 60 years.

Uniform #'s
#9 (1936), #5 (1937-1942, 1946-1951)

Nicknames
"Joltin' Joe" and "The Yankee Clipper."

Played For
New York Yankees (1936-1942, 1946-1951)

Post-Season
1936 World Series, 1937 World Series, 1938 World Series, 1939 World Series, 1941 World Series, 1942 World Series, 1947 World Series, 1949 World Series, 1950 World Series, 1951 World Series

World Champion?
Yes, nine times.

Ultimate Games (2-0)
1947 World Series Game Seven, 1949 Regular Season

Honors
All-Star (13): 1936-1942, 1946-1951; American League MVP 1939, 1941 and 1947; voted Greatest Living Player in a 1969 Major League Baseball fans poll.

Best Season, 1941
Though Ted Williams great '41 season denied DiMaggio a batting or slugging title, Joltin' Joe had a monster year. He slugged .643 with a .440 OBP (1.083 OPS). He led the league with 125 RBI, and hit 30 homers and 43 doubles. He also scored 122 runs, collected 193 hits, and smashed 11 triples. Amazingly, he struck out just 13 times! He had 76 walks, and did all of this while playing his usual fantastic center field. Oh yes...and he also posted his 56-game hitting streak and led the Yankees to a World Series title.

Hitting Streaks
56 games (1941); DiMaggio's streak was stopped by Cleveland pitcher Jim Bagby Jr., son of former big league pitcher Jim Bagby. In the minor leagues, DiMaggio had a 610game hitting streak stopped by Ed Walsh Jr., son of Hall of Fame right-hander Ed Walsh.

DiMaggio and the MVP Award
DiMaggio won two controversial MVP awards over Ted Williams: in 1941 (by 37 votes, despite Williams' .406 average); and in 1947, (by a single vote). Twice he finished second, once in a very close vote. In 1937 he lost the honor to Detroit's Charlie Gehringer by four votes.

Chronology
November 25, 1914: Born in Martinez, California, the eighth of nine children of Sicilian immigrants. Two brothers also became major leaguers: Dom with the Boston Red Sox and Vince with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

May 1936: Major league debut with New York Yankees.

November 1939: Marries actress Dorothy Arnold. Their marriage produces a son, Joe III, but ends in divorce in 1944.

1939, 1941 and 1947: Selected as American League's Most Valuable Player.

1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951: Plays in the World Series. Yankees win all but 1942.

1939, 1940: Wins American League batting championship.

May 15 to July 17, 1941: 56-game hitting streak shatters record of 44 held by Willie Keeler, that had stood for more than 40 years.

February 1943: Enlists in the Army, spends rest of war serving in physical training program for Air Force cadets.

December 11, 1951: Announces retirement as a player after 13 seasons. "I feel that I have reached the stage where I can no longer produce for my ball club, my manager, my teammates and my fans the sort of baseball their loyalty to me deserves."

January 14, 1954: Marries Marilyn Monroe at San Francisco City Hall.

October 1954: Monroe divorces him.

1955: Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility. (No player between 1937 and 1961 was named in his first year of eligibility.)

August 5, 1962: Monroe dies. DiMaggio sends roses to her grave for years.

1969: Voted greatest living baseball player.

1968-1969: Member of board of directors, Oakland A's.

1980-1988: Member of board of directors, Baltimore Orioles


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