Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, The Yankee Clipper

 By: Richard Poulin
Joltin' Joe was surely the most complete ball player of his generation. But he was more than that. Baseball has produced many sports legends but it has produced only one DiMaggio . Joe became legendary as much off as on the field, an lasting image of baseball excellence, loved and esteemed by Americans fully, fifty years after his ultimate game in 1952. A classy player.

Born of immigrants from southern Italy, Joe (Giuseppe) DiMaggio Jr., the eighth of 9 siblings, was born Nov. 25 , 1914, in Martinez a fishing village north of San Fransisco where his dad was a fisherman. When they became of age DiMaggio and his brothers went to sea with their father. Thanks to baseball DiMaggio was soon able to quit that work that he disliked.

Joe spent three seasons with the San Francisco Seals before bursting onto the major league scene in 1936 when he helped the Yankees begin another dynasty. Four season and four World Series championships. that's how Joe started his major league career. Then over his entire thirteen year career the Yankees won nine World Series. that is a .690 average!

Tens of thousands of Italian Americans cheered him on the day Joe first appeared in center field for the Yanks, May three, 1936.

First Joe was nicknamed Joltin' Joe for his power batting and later The Yankee Clipper for his remarkable speed as a fielder and on the bases. DiMaggio hit a league leading 46 homers in 1936. Over his thirteen year career the total was 361.
His bat thundered in 1937 with 167 RBI's and an average of .346 followed by a .328 in '38 and a whopping .380 for 1939.

Joe is best remembered for his Streak, his fifty-six game hitting streak of 1941. It started May 15th and ended July 17th. His batting average during the streak was .406 and ball fans all over the country tuned in to their radios day in day out to check it he could keep it going.

The streak inspired Les Brown's band to record "Joltin' DiMaggio ", a big hit in 1941.

After the 52 game streak ended he immediately went on a 16 -game batting streak.

Joe was drafted into the army in 1942. Joe was batting .305 at the time. DiMaggio spent three years in the army and returned to professional baseball in 1946.

1948 saw him back in full form winning three individual titles, homers with 39, batting average with .320 and RBI's with 155. Joltin' Joe was back!
Joe retired with a life-time batting average of .325. But for World War II it would have been better yet.

After his love affair ended with baseball, Joe began one with Marilyn Monroe. They were wed in 1954. Joe was 39, she twenty seven. They divorced nine months later but remained good friends. Joe took charge of everything after her tragic death in 1964 and was often seen placing flowers on her grave for decades thereafter.

DiMaggio symbolizes for many a gentler, sweeter time in America and this was immortalized in song. Paul Simon wrote in his big Simon and Garfunkel hit " Mrs. Robinson" ,"Where have you gone, The Yankee Clipper? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

After DiMaggio retired he hosted pre-game TV shows, game shows and made numerous television commercials that Americans loved to see. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of fame in 1955.

On March 8th, 1999 DiMaggio passed away at his home in Hollywood Florida at age 95.
Modest to a fault, DiMaggio always gave his best to the game, game in , game out. His isn't just a sports story but also one of humanism. He was looked up to for his persona both on and off the field.

A New York commentator may have put it best, "DiMaggio remains a living symbol of excellence, power and to be sure , gentleness."
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