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Joe DiMaggio was one of sport’s superstars and his life had some odd twists in the end. He was one of baseball’s great players, the only player ever to be selected for the all-star game every year in which he played, has a standing record of 56 games with a hit, and was voted the baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. The son of Italian immigrants Joseph Paul DiMaggio was expected to follow his father in occupational choice: fisherman. This was the height of the California sardine trade and there was more than enough work for everyone. Unfortunately the smell of fish made Joe sick. He started
playing semi-pro ball to get out of the fishing trade. His older brother Vince was already playing professional baseball in San Francisco and convinced his manager to give his younger brother a chance on the club. Young Joe DiMaggio never looked back and the baseball world would be the better for it. He injured his knee while playing in San Francisco but the New York Yankees still brought him on in a trade for $25,000 and five other players. This trade could probably be listed as the best trade the New York Yankees ever put together.
Joe was very fast footed and could cover major ground in catching balls in center field and was nicknamed The Yankee Clipper after the name of the Pan Am airliner of the day. Many players of the day felt that the only way to get a hit against the Yankees was to hit the ball away from Joe DiMaggio because he was so fast. He was so fast and quick-minded that he was able to actually steal home five times in his career. Most players never are able to steal home even one time in their career. The Yankees tried to trade him towards the end of his 13 year career but could not reach complete agreement with the Boston Red Sox so Joe stayed in New York. He appeared on the inaugural cover of Sport magazine with his son due to his popularity with fans of the game. He retired after the 1951 season and in an interview reported that it was time to quit the game because it had hurt to play all season and had not been fun and when the game ceased to be fun it was time to stop.
Joe DiMaggio was no stranger to records and one of his records still stands to this day. He safely hit in 56 straight games. He was only stopped in the 57th game by two spectacular back-handed catches by a third baseman in Cleveland. He then turned around and hit safely in 17 more straight games. The closest that any other player has gotten is Pete Rose at 44 straight games. In a modern era with steroid-enhance players and broken records it shows how amazing the streak really is. Most players end their hit streaks when they are barely in the teens let alone in the 50s. Before his major hitting streak and during World War II Joe served in the US Army and reached the rank of Sargent. He never saw combat even though he officially requested to be allowed into combat. He played on base teams performing exhibition games for other service members. He was released from active duty in 1945 due to chronic stomach ulcers. While he was serving his father’s boat was seized and his parents were classified as “enemy aliens” due to their status as immigrants from Italy which was a member state of the Axis powers. They eventually became full citizens and their property was returned.
Joe’s married life was far from the success that his baseball career was. He was married to actress Dorothy Arnold in 1939 and in 1942 Dorothy gave birth to Joe DiMaggio, Jr. They divorced in 1944 while Joe was stationed in Hawaii with the US Army but their relations remained amicable. Joe wasn’t alone for the rest of his life however. He met Marilyn Monroe and married her in 1954. They were married for 274 days and the relationship was filled with violence including a famous shouting match in a theater lobby. He would reenter Ms. Monroe’s life in 1961 and was worried for her but before he could provide help she was found dead in her home. Her death was ruled a suicide but many conspiracy theorists believe she was murdered. Joe never married again and was very private the remainder of his life. He represented Mr. Coffee and the Bowery Savings bank for many years. Joe had been a smoker for many years and this proved to be his undoing. He died in 1999 from complications due to lung cancer. He will forever be remembered for his pure love of the game.
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