Teams: New York Yankees, 1936-1942, 1946-1951
Vince began playing for the San Francisco Seals, where he made his reputation as a superb fielder with a penchant for striking out. During his time with the Seals, he introduced brother Joe to team management. Before long, Vince hurt his arm, setting the stage for Joe to take his place in center. By 1937, Joe and Vince were in the majors, while Dominic was just beginning his pro career with the Seals.
All three were in the majors by 1940. With a lifetime .298 batting average, Dom’s career neared his brother’s. Of Vince, Casey Stengel probably said it best when he remarked “Joe is the best hitter, Dom the best fielder, and Vince the best singer.”
Joseph Paul DiMaggio (1914-1999) was a native of San Francisco, where he and his brothers Vince and Dom played baseball on the sandlots hour after hour. Joe left high school early to work in a cannery and to play semipro baseball.
At age 17, he signed with the San Francisco Seals (for whom brother Vince played) at the end of the 1932 season. Joe played in three games and batted .222. The next season, he had a .340 batting average, 28 homers, and 169 RBI in 187 games. Joe was a local hero.
DiMaggio batted .341 in 1934, but he suffered a knee injury that scared some big-league clubs away, especially at the price the Seals were demanding. The Yankees had no such qualms; with their superior financial position, they were able to risk the $25,000 and five minor-league players. The Bombers assigned him back to San Francisco for the 1935 season, and he had a .398 average, 34 homers, and 154 RBI -- raising the hopes of Bronx fans.
DiMaggio lived up to even tough New York standards, joining with Lou Gehrig to power the Yankees to the first of four consecutive world championships in his 1936 rookie season. Although he was severely hampered by Yankee Stadium’s cavernous left field, The Yankee Clipper twice led the league in home runs and twice in slugging. He hit only 148 of his 361 lifetime home runs at home.
DiMaggio was an outstanding and graceful defensive outfielder. He played center with ease and threw the ball with terrific power. He led the league in outfield assists with 22 his rookie year, and had 21 and then 20 before the league apparently got wise and stopped running on him.
Joltin’ Joe won his first Most Valuable Player Award in 1939, when he had his career-best .381 batting average. When he won his second MVP trophy in 1941 he had 76 walks and only 13 strikeouts. He also hit in a record 56 consecutive games, a feat considered the greatest by some observers.
No other hitter has ever hit in more than 44. He almost never struck out -- his high was 39 Ks, his rookie year -- and actually came close to having more lifetime homers than Ks, with 369 strikeouts to his 361 round-trippers.
Joe DiMaggio rips one in the 1949 World Series as Brooklyn catcher Roy
Campanella watches unhappily.
If Yankee Stadium depressed his career totals, World War II was even more of a factor, as Joe lost three seasons. He won his third MVP Award and the Yankees won another championship in 1947 (it was Joe who hit the drive that made Al Gionfriddo famous), but a heel injury slowed Joe in 1948, and he couldn’t return to the lineup until June 1949. His return was memorable, as he slugged four homers with nine RBI in a doubleheader.
Another world championship followed, the first of five straight for the Yanks, but DiMaggio would only stick around for three of them. Injuries and the grind of the road drove Joe into retirement after the 1951 season. He was succeeded in center by Mickey Mantle.
With the passing of time, Joe’s legend continued to grow to an enormous magnitude. Ernest Hemingway used Joe as a symbol in The Old Man and the Sea. Musicians from Les Brown to Paul Simon wrote about DiMaggio in songs. Marilyn Monroe married Joe. He became a spokesman for a national product, Mr. Coffee, that became part of the American vocabulary.
DiMaggio was a joy to watch, and loved to play the game. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Here are Joe DiMaggio's major league totals:
| BA||G ||AB ||R||H||2B||3B||HR ||RBI ||SB |
|.325||1,736||6,821 ||1,390||2,214||389||131 ||361 ||1,537 ||30|
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