Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio (who would later be famously known as Joe Dimaggio) was born on November 25, 1914, in Martinez, California. Dimaggio was the eighth child of Giuseppe and Rosalie DiMaggio, Italian immigrants who moved from Sicily to California in 1898.
Joe’s father was a fisherman and the young Dimaggio did whatever he could to avoid his father’s work. Dimmagio would begin playing Minor League Baseball with the San Francisco Seals as a 17-year-old. The young Dimaggio became a Bay Area celebrity in 1933 when he posted a 61-game hitting streak (a league record that still stands) while hitting .340 and knocking in 169 runs.
The following year, Dimaggio would hit an incredible .341, and the New York Yankees purchased his contract for a sum of $25,000 and five minor league players. When Dimaggio made his MLB debut (after it being postponed due to injury) on May 3, 1936, 25,000 cheering, flag-waving, Italian residents of New York were in attendance to welcome Dimaggio to the Bronx Bombers.
“If you saw him play, you’ll never forget him. No one ran with such unhurried grace. His gifts as an athlete were marvelous because they were subdued. Here was an outfielder who followed a fly ball with a deft serenity as though his progress had been plotted by a choreographer concerned only with the defeat of awkwardness,” said Jimmy Cannon od the New York Journal American.
Dimaggio was a stud from 1936 to 1940, but it was the 1941 season that (like Ted Williams) made “Joltin Joe” a baseball legend.
Joe Dimaggio began the greatest hitting streak in Major League history on May 15, 1941, and compiled a hit every game until July 17, 1941. During that span, “The Yankee Clipper” hit .406. Baseball fans all over the country anxiously kept tabs every day to see if the Yankee Clipper had kept his streak going and for 56 straight games, he did not disappoint. Dimmagio won the Most Valuable Player Award that year after cementing his name into the baseball record books and setting a mark that will never be touched.
Dimaggio followed up his hit streak with a solid 1942 season where he batted .305, but he was drafted into the army following the season. Dimaggio missed Major League Baseball from 1943 to 1945. After the War, Dimaggio played for six more years. Dimaggio retired after the 1951 season after 13-years in the Major Leagues. Dimaggio retired after amassing one of the greatest careers of all-time in such a short time frame.
“There was an aura about him. He walked like no one else walked. He did things so easily. He was immaculate in everything he did. Kings of State wanted to meet him and be with him. He carried himself so well. He could fit in any place in the world,” said Phil Rizzuto.
In his career, Dimaggio hit 361 home runs with a .325 batting average, 1,537 runs batted in, 2,214 hits, a .39 on base percentage, .579 slugging percentage, .977 OPS, 155 OPS+ (100 is league average) with a 78.1 WAR. Dimaggio would win three Most Valuable Player Awards, be selected to 13 All-Star Games, two batting titles, while winning a TSN Major League Player of the Year Award.
“DiMaggio was the greatest all-around player I ever saw. His career cannot be summed up in numbers and awards. It might sound corny, but he had a profound and lasting impact on the country,” said the great Ted Williams.
DiMaggio was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1955, named the “Greatest Living Player” in 1969 in a poll of sportswriters, and was selected as a member of the All-Century Team in 1999.
“Heroes are people who are all good with no bad in them. That’s the way I always saw Joe DiMaggio. He was beyond question one of the greatest players of the century,” said teammate Mickey Mantle.
Joe Dimaggio died of lung cancer in 1999. The dying Joe DiMaggio’s last words were, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn,’ ” his lawyer Morris Engelberg says in the September issue of Vanity Fair. Marylin Monroe was Dimaggio’s second wife who died far before he did in 1962. Dimaggio never remarried.
“I played my best everyday. You never know when someone may be seeing you play for the first time.” ~ Joe DiMaggio