Joe DiMaggio: From a Fishing Boat to the New York Yankees

Photo of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio from the cover of the January 1954 issue of Now magazine (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio from the cover of the January 1954 issue of Now magazine (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the 101st anniversary of the birth of baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the Yankee Clipper.

DiMaggio was born Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio in Martinez, California, in 1914. He was the eighth of nine children. His father was a fisherman, who moved from Sicily in 1898, followed shortly by his wife and oldest daughter. One year after Joe was born, the family moved to the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Joe turned to baseball as a way to avoid cleaning his father’s fishing boat. His father, who didn’t care for the game, would call him “lazy” and “good for nothing.” When his father finally gave up on keeping his son from playing baseball, Joe lost interest in the game. Later, he began taking the game more seriously after his brother Vince was signed by the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League.

Joe DiMaggio was signed by the Seals and made his professional debut on Oct. 1, 1932. The next season he hit safely in a league-record 61 consecutive games. The next year, he tore ligaments in his knee while stepping from a jitney cab. Despite the injury, the New York Yankees purchased his contract, but let him stay with the Seals for the 1935 season. In 1935, DiMaggio  hit .398 with 34 home runs and 154 runs batted in. The team won the league title and DiMaggio was named the PCL’s Most Valuable Player.

In 1936, he debuted with the Yankees and helped lead the team to a World Series championship. The Yankees won the next three championships as well, and DiMaggio was selected as the American League MVP in 1939.

On May 15, 1941, DiMaggio went 1-for-4 against the Chicago White Sox. 41 games later, he broke George Sisler’s modern record for consecutive games with a hit. Three games later, he passed Wee Willie Keeler’s all-time record set in 1897. The streak would eventually reach 56 games before ending on July 17. The day after, he started a 16-game hitting streak, hitting safely in 72 of 73 games. The Yankees went 41-13-2 during the streak. He earned his second American League MVP award that season.

He missed three seasons from 1943 through 1945 while serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II. He spent most of the war as a physical education instructor, rising to the rank of sergeant. He went from making $3,500 a month to $21 a month in the Army. He was discharged in 1945 after suffering from chronic stomach ulcers. While he was serving, his parents, who were not yet American citizens were classified as “enemy aliens” and were not allowed to travel more than five miles from their home without a permit.

DiMaggio returned in 1946 and won his final MVP award in 1947. He retired after the 1951 season. When he retired he ranked fifth in carer homer runs. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955 in his third year of eligibility.

In 1954 he met and married Marilyn Monroe. An argument following the filming of the skirt-blowing scene in Monroe’s movie “The Seven Year Itch,” led to their divorce less than a year later. After Monroe’s marriage to playwright Arthur Miller failed, DiMaggio and Monroe became friends again. According to a biography, DiMaggio was intending to ask Monroe to remarry him when she was found dead on August 5, 1962. For the next 20 years, he had six red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week. He never talked about her publicly again.

In 1999, DiMaggio died of lung cancer in Hollywood, Florida. He was 84.

Our question, who has the longest major-league hitting streak since DiMaggio’s 56-game streak in 1941?

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It’s also Independence Day in Suriname and National Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the United States it’s National Parfait Day. It’s the birthday of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, automotive pioneer Karl Benz and John F. Kennedy Jr.


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