Thursday, November 25, 2010

In Memoriam: Joe DiMaggio

Born on this day in 1914 (the eighth of nine children) when Joe DiMaggio was a year old the entire brood moved to San Francisco and, even more than New York, it was thereafter the city most often associated with him; following his retirement he opened a successful restaurant in the city's North Beach neighbourhood, and became known for his quiet good works in children's athletics.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIn his entire illustrious career - thirteen seasons in all from 1936 to 1951 (save for a 31-month stint in the USAF starting in February 1943) - Joe DiMaggio wore no uniform other than that of the New York Yankees, and no number but #5 would suit the man they called the Yankee Clipper. The three-time MVP and 13-time All Star won nine World Series victories in his 13 seasons, and in 1941 embarked on a legendary 56-game hitting streak which earned him another sobriquet: Joltin' Joe. Yankee Stadium may have been 'The House That Ruth Built', but it was Joe DiMaggio who paid the mortgage.

Whatever fame his years in baseball accrued to him, his retirement wasn't exactly spent out of the limelight. A surprise 274-day marriage to the up-and-coming starlet Marilyn Monroe in January 1954, for instance, or his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955, seemed to occur in spite of his desire for privacy, and seemingly without his encouragement either, as he was notoriously reticent, especially with the press.

Despite the shortness of their marriage, DiMaggio remained devoted to Marilyn for the rest of his life (which came to a close in March 1999); following their divorce he never remarried, although he was often seen squiring lovely ladies around. Rumours circulated at the time of her death in August 1962 that he was trying to get her to marry him again, but it never came to pass.

After her death he was the only one of the men with whom she was involved who didn't try to capitalize on their relationship by writing some kind of tell-all book; indeed, Arthur Miller wrote a whole play about their life together while DiMaggio never so much as gave an interview. Nevertheless, he's the one who made her funeral arrangements, and had six red roses delivered to her final resting place 3 times a week for 20 years.
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