Sunday, July 17, 2016


I've long been a little in love with Joe DiMaggio. Like Baryshnikov, he was grace in motion. Look at that swing! I remember seeing a documentary about Joltin' Joe that showed him at a charity event, raising money by bowling with a massive round of gouda. He made even that look classy.

Joltin' Joe is on the news again this summer, as baseball fans observe the 75th anniversary of his streak. He hit in every damn game for nearly two months, 56 games in all. It's considered baseball's unbreakable record.

In 1998, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire chased one another in an exciting home run derby. I thought we Cub fans, along with the rest of the country, were crazy into it. The attention Sosa and McGwire got with nothing compared to the white hot light on Joe 75 years ago. A lot of it had to do with New York then, as now, being the world's media center. I think more of it had to with Joe. He was a real hero, as opposed to those two juicers.

During The Streak, his every swing was documented ... from the diamond!

After his career was over, he became famous as the man who really loved Her. The Marilyn Monroe legend is filled with tales of Dimaggio's devotion, even after she left him. One of the most enduring and harrowing has to do with Marilyn's four days at Payne-Whitney. Monroe believed her psychiatrist was admitting her to a rest home. Instead, she found herself on a cot in a psych ward. It's possible that, in long-ago 1961, a psych ward was the best option available to this very troubled woman. But that doesn't mean it was handled correctly. Marilyn was terrified, her anxiety escalated and burst through the roof. Her doctor was unavailable. Her close friend and mentor, Lee Strasburg, tried to help but was unsuccessful. She got word to Joe, who was still one of the most powerful men in New York.

He whisked her away after Payne Whitney
By that time, they were divorced. She also remarried and divorced Arthur Miller and had high-profile affairs with Yves Montand and Frank Sinatra. And yet, Joe was there for her. He warned hospital staff that he was coming to get "his wife" at the end of the day and she'd better be ready to come "home" when he arrived. If she wasn't, he threatened to take the hospital apart "brick by brick."

They released her to Joe's care. Just as the coroner would release Marilyn's body to Joe. And every week for more than twenty years, he made sure the Parisian Florist on Sunset Blvd. delivered roses to her grave. According to his friend, Morris Engelberg, who was with him when he died, Dimaggio's last words were, "It's OK. I'll finally get to see Marilyn."

Oh, I've heard all the negatives. I know of his reputation for being cheap. He and his only child were estranged at the time of his death. He could be prickly: if he wasn't introduced as "The World's Greatest Living Yankee," he wouldn't appear (which looks to me like a petty swipe at Mickey Mantle).

But you know what? I don't care. I love Joe Dimaggio. And so, to paraphrase Simon and Garfunkle sang, I'm turning my attention to him this morning.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, sigh.... I had heard rumors that he ignored her a lot, but he certainly must have loved her an awful lot.


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