Born on this day in 1914, “Joltin'” Joe DiMaggio played thirteen years for the New York Yankees from 1936 – 1951. This included three years interrupted by the tumult of WWII. Mr. DiMaggio served in the armed forces from 1943 – 1945, and while he never saw combat, he did play a role in public relations as a morale booster.
This Hall of Famer still holds Major League Baseball’s longest hitting streak at 56 games. Almost every year since Mr. DiMaggio set that record one player or another has made a run at it, but none have really come close. Pete Rose hit in 44 straight in 1978. No one has come any closer since then. It’s no surprise that a man so supremely talented on the field, and so haunted in his post-baseball retirement years, would become the subject of some truly fascinating books. Here’s a short list of my favorites:
56: Joe DiMaggio And The Last Magic Number In Sports by Kostya Kennedy. You can’t really know Joe DiMaggio without knowing about the streak. This book brilliantly depicts how one of the most enduring accomplishments in sports history wove itself into the fabric of American culture.
Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil by Jerome Charyn. Mr. Charyn explores Joe DiMaggio’s post-baseball life, his nine month marriage to starlet Marilyn Monroe, and his lifelong devotion to her. While often depicted as cruel and uncaring off of the field, Mr. Charyn’s book digs more deeply into Joe DiMaggio’s wounded psyche and reveals a more sympathetic man.
The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion For Baseball, And Their Pursuit Of The American Dream by Thomas Clavin. Most folks know about Joe DiMaggio, but this book discusses the professional baseball careers of his brothers Dom and Vince, both also highly successful players. Many sets of brothers have played in Major League Baseball, but this trio sets the gold standard for total career accomplishments.
Joe DiMaggio passed away on March 8, 1999. His legacy of talent, professionalism, and loyalty lives on.