Yankees History: No.5, Ladies man, joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, “The Yankee Clipper”

William Parlee
New York Yankees, Babe Ruth
(Original Caption) After making a runaway race of it all season, the Yankees won the American League pennant. They took the opening series of the year from the Athletics, of Philadelphia, and held the lead until the end; their victory was due mainly to the heavy hitting of “Babe” Ruth, Lou Gehrig; Tony Lazzeri and other members of the team; Miller Huggins is the manager. Photo shows Combs, centerfielder; Ruth, left fielder and Meusel, right fielder. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
In Martinez, California, in 1914, Joe DiMaggio was born to his immigrant parents Giuseppe and Rosalia DiMaggio. His father was a fisherman from Sicily. Joe was their first second born in America. He loved playing sandlot baseball but hated cleaning out his Father’s fishing boat, sighting the foul smell from dead fish. In his teen years, he played baseball and did odd jobs instead of finishing his schooling
By this time, his older brother Vince was playing minor league ball for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. At the time, the team needed a shortstop, so the older Brother Vince convinced his Manager to give Joe a try. So Joe made his pro debut in 1932 at the age of 18. From May through June of 1933, Joe hit in 61 consecutive games, still the second-longest minor league stretch.
In 1934 DiMaggio had a bad knee injury that could end his baseball career. He suffered the injury getting out of a jitney. Despite his injury and do to his early successes playing ball, baseball scouts were taking an interest in the young DiMaggio. Yankees scout Bill Essick sure that Joe would heal convinced the Yankees to let him take a physical which Joe passed that November. The Yankees managed to talk the Seals ownership to work out a trade. The Yankee gave up five players and paid a cash buy out of his contract for $50,000. In today’s money, that is just short of a million dollars. Thus started the career of Joe DiMaggio with the Yankees. In 1936 he hit 29 home runs a record for a rookie that held for 81 years until Aaron Judge blew it away in 2017 with 52 homers.
DiMaggio was one of the best center fielders the Yankee ever had, due to his ability to cover so much ground. His speed in the outfield caused him to get the nickname “Clipper,” referring to the speed of an airliner of the time. The owner of the Yankees at the time was Larry MacPhail; he orchestrated a trade between him and the Red Sox to get Ted Williams. The trade was to include Joe and a young Yogi Berra. The trade never happened as MacPhail would not include Yogi in the deal, so DiMaggio remained a Yankee throughout his 13-year career.
Joe, in his career, received many award accolades and broke several records. Besides having the most home runs for a rookie, he also had the most home runs in his first two years, a record not broken until 2009. Joe’s record could have been even better, but Yankee Stadium left-center field back then was 457′. In 1941 Joe had a 56 game hitting streak. During the streak, DiMaggio hit .408, and the Yankees went 41-13. His streak still stands today; the closest anyone has come to it is Pete Rose in 1978. He won 10 American League pennants, 9 World Championships, three MVP awards, Batting titles in 1939 and 1940, was an eleven-time All-Star, and had a career batting average of .325. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.
World War II was pretty kind to Joe, mostly due to his fame, so when he enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1943, he quickly advanced to Sargeant. He spent most of his time in Atlantic City, California, and Hawaii. He mostly played exhibition baseball games, ate, drank, and laid on the beach. At one point, being the humble guy he was, he requested that he be given a combat assignment, but the Army refused.
I won’t dwell on it, but Joltin Joe was thought of as a ladies man and was no stranger to the Hollywood elite. He married Dorthy Arnold in 1939; he met her on a Hollywood set. They married with 20,000 well-wishers jamming the streets. They had a son together, Joseph, in 1941, and they divorced in 1944. After he retired from the Yankees in 1951, he soon met Marilyn Monroe, the famed American beauty in 1953, and their romance was great media news. They eloped in January of 1954. The marriage didn’t last long; they were divorced just nine-month after they tied the knot. Joe would enter her life several times after the divorce, in fact, in later years they read poetry to each other. Monroe was said to have committed suicide in 1962. Just weeks before her death, Joe was about to ask her to remarry him. He was devastated by her death. He arranged her funeral, and for 20 years thereafter he had a half dozen red roses delivered to her Crypt three times a week.
Dimaggio refused to talk to the press about Marilyn or their relationship. He never married again. Joe DiMaggio passed away after a long fight with lung cancer. He was a life long, heavy smoker. He died on March 8, 1999, in a Hollywood, Flordia hospital at the age of 84. According to his attorney, his last words were, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn again”.