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The Yankee Clipper: Joe DiMaggio

Harvey Frommer on Sports

Remembering Dom DiMaggio

Sicilian immigrants Giuseppe -- the fisherman -- and Rosalie lived in the North Beach section of San Francisco and raised nine children. Three of the five boys became big league ball players.  The last one, Dominic Paul DiMaggio, passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 92.

I was probably the last one to interview him.  He is my 130th voice for the opus I am working on - - REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY, slated for 2010 publication. 

The man they dubbed the "Little Professor" because of his spectacles and 5-foot-9, 168-pound frame was a hell of a ballplayer even though he played in the gigantic shadows of Ted Williams and brother Joseph. He hit in 34 straight games in 1949, a streak snapped when big brother Joe snared a sinking line drive in a 6-3 Red Sox win over the Yankees.

I reached Dominic Paul DiMaggio on the phone not too long after he passed his 92nd birthday.

“How much time do you need?” he asked.

“Thirty minutes.”
        “Too much. How about five minutes”

We settled on 20 minutes, and I was told to talk louder throughout. What follows are some of the more moving and interesting aspects of the oral history that should make their way into the book. The words reveal a confident and intelligent man, who had a little tartness to him.

DOM DIMAGGIO: The first time I walked into Fenway Park was April 1940 before the season started, and there was ice on the field. It was a bit of a shock for me having been in California all my life.  I was wondering how we were going to start on time.  I do believe we did.

The weather wasn’t that bad. But there were cold days.  I loved Fenway Park because it was cozy. Playing baseball there was a pleasure and a joy. It was close to the public and the whole thing was a perfect picture in my mind.

         The atmosphere was increased when the Red Sox and Yankees played and you could feel that and so I enjoyed playing against New York. 

  In 1941, when my brother Joe had the hitting streak going, Ted would be talking to the guy in the scoreboard and the guy would keep him posted when Joe got a hit. You couldn’t do that at any other park.   

  There were times at Fenway when Joe would be coming in from centerfield and I would be coming out.  I said very little to him on those occasions.  What the hell was I going to do, stop in centerfield and have a conversation? 

 Sam Mele wasn’t a bad outfielder.  Ted Williams wasn’t a bad outfielder either especially at Fenway Park - he played that wall nicely. 

 I enjoyed a challenge and Fenway Park did offer a challenge because of its structure and that was something but other than that it was a pleasure to play in. Having played there so often for so many years and so many games I felt I mastered the ballpark and got along beautifully with the fences. They didn’t hurt me and I didn’t hurt them.

 I did not shoot for the Green Monster.  No.  I was an all-around hitter, a line-drive hitter, a damn good one too.  I loved to hit in Fenway.

Harvey Frommer is his 33rd consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 40 of them including “New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball”. His “Remembering Yankee Stadium: An Oral and Narrative History of the House that Ruth Built” (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published in 2008 as well as a reprint version of his “Shoeless Joe and Ragtime

Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in excess of one million and appears on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.   

  **Call for Fenway Memories  - now working on "Remembering 

*****Fenway Park" - will feature stories– first game attended, marker moments, odd events, tales of a special player at the Fens, architectural features... Please contact me by e-mail if you have something to contribute. 

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