Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army 1
Birth:
02 Feb 1917 2
San Francisco CA 1
Death:
08 May 2009 2
Marion, MA 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Dominic Paul DiMaggio 1
Full Name:
Dominic P Dimaggio 2
Birth:
02 Feb 1917 2
San Francisco CA 1
Death:
08 May 2009 2
Marion, MA 1
Burial:
Newton Cemetery, Newton, MA 1
Residence:
Last Residence: Boynton Beach, FL 2
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World War II 1

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Army 1
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Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 2

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Dominic DiMaggio dies at 92; seven-time American League All-Star

Dominic DiMaggio, the Boston Red Sox center fielder and seven-time American League All-Star whose impressive career was overshadowed by the towering legend of his older brother Joe, the Yankee Clipper, died Friday. He was 92.

Known as the "Little Professor" because of his compact size and the fact that he was one of the few players of his era to wear glasses, DiMaggio died at his home in Marion, Mass., his wife, Emily, told the Associated Press. The Red Sox said in a statement that he had pneumonia.   A daring leadoff hitter who was the sparkplug for the Red Sox from 1940 to 1953, Dom DiMaggio had a .298 lifetime batting average and still holds the Boston record for hitting in 34 consecutive games. He set the mark in 1949, eight seasons after his brother Joe set the consecutive game standard by hitting in 56 straight for the New York Yankees. Joe ended Dom's streak when he caught a sinking line drive off his brother's last at-bat on Aug. 9, 1949, in a game the Red Sox ultimately won.

Dom DiMaggio also was one of the few players to average 100 runs a season for his career. In the 10 seasons he played, he had more hits than anyone else with 1,679. And he held the American League record for RBIs by a leadoff man until another Boston player, Nomar Garciaparra, broke it.

DiMaggio also was one of the finest center fielders to play the game. Gifted with a rifle arm and extraordinary quickness, he set an American League record for center fielders in 1948 with 503 putouts. The mark stood until 1977, when it was broken by Chet Lemon of the Chicago White Sox, who notched 512 putouts.

Despite all of that, DiMaggio was never elected to baseball's Hall of Fame. The late broadcaster Curt Gowdy called him baseball's "most underrated great player."

DiMaggio was born in San Francisco on Feb. 12, 1917, and was the youngest of nine children born to Sicilian immigrants.

He was the third member of his family to play in the major leagues along with Joe, who was three years older; and another brother, Vince, who was five years older and who played with five National League teams and was the least accomplished of the three.

Author David Halberstam, in the book "The Teammates" about the relationship among four Red Sox players including Dom and Ted Williams, wrote that of the DiMaggio brothers "it was said that Joe was the best hitter, Dom had the best arm and Vince, who wanted to be an opera singer, had the best voice."

Dom DiMaggio also was the smallest of the three brothers, and during his major league days stood 5 feet 9 and weighed 168 pounds.

As a boy growing up in San Francisco, he worked on his father's fishing boat and didn't play high school baseball until his senior year, batting .400.

After graduating, he worked in a mattress factory and played for a semipro team on weekends. In 1937, he got time off from work to attend a tryout camp held by the minor league San Francisco Seals and was signed to a contract.

He played with the Seals, who moved him from shortstop to the outfield so an errant ground ball wouldn't break his glasses, until Boston bought his contract after the 1939 season.

As a rookie in 1940, he hit .301, scored 81 runs and had a team-leading 16 assists for the Red Sox and established himself as a fixture for years to come.

Like many of the excellent players of his generation, he lost three years to military service duringWorld War II, a fact he never complained about.

After serving in the Navy, he returned to baseball for the 1946 season, hitting .316 for a Red Sox club that made it to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

DiMaggio had a key role in the seventh game of the series, knocking in two runs in the top of the eighth inning to tie the score, 3-3. But he injured a leg running out the hit and had to leave the game.

In the Cardinals' half of the eighth, Enos Slaughter was on first base when Harry Walker hit a ball to DiMaggio's replacement in center, Leon Culbertson. Culbertson was slow to field the ball and made a poor throw to shortstop Johnny Pesky, whose relay to the plate was late and allowed Slaughter to score what proved to be the winning run.

The prevailing view was a healthy DiMaggio, with his rifle arm, would have played the ball better and prevented what came to be known as Slaughter's "mad dash" from first to home.

Slaughter, himself, later conceded it.

"If they hadn't taken DiMaggio out of the game, I wouldn't have tried it," he told reporters.

DiMaggio was selected to eight All-Star teams and played in seven games -- he was injured and unable to play in one game. In three of those games, he played in the outfield with his brother Joe.

In 1950, they had the distinction of being the first brothers to hit home runs in the same game in the majors in 15 seasons.

Over the years, the inevitable comparisons with his brother Joe surfaced. Although Dom put up excellent numbers as a career .298 hitter with 87 home runs, Joe was a .325 career hitter with 361 home runs. And many, including Dom, considered Joe the best player in baseball history.

After retiring from the game because of an eye injury during the 1953 season, Dom DiMaggio, who never earned more than $40,000 a season as a baseball player, became a highly successful businessman in textile manufacturing for automobile interiors in New England.

His brother Vince died in October 1986 and Joe died in March 1999.

In addition to his wife, survivors include his three children, Dominic Paul, Peter and Emily; and several grandchildren.

Services are pending.

The Brothers DiMaggio

Dom DiMaggio, the younger brother of baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, was a very interesting man, and only in part because of his famous brother. He was a fine ballplayer in his own right, and there was a movement in the 1980s and '90s led by his former teammate, Ted Williams, to have him elected to the Hall of Fame.

Dom was a small guy, at 5-9 and 168 pounds, and wore glasses -- which almost no one else in the game did at the time -- and he didn't have the patrician elegance of his 6-foot, 2-inch brother on the baseball diamond. (A third brother, Vince DiMaggio, also played capably in the major leagues for 10 years; all three DiMaggios played the same position, center field.)

Dom DiMaggio was fast and had a powerful arm (all three brothers batted and threw righthanded), and he willed himself into being a good, if not quite great, baseball player. In 1937, when he was 20, he was one of about 135 players competing in an open tryout for the San Francisco Seals, a minor-league team that was practically the equal of some major-league teams at the time. Dom was the best player at the tryout, and in 1939 he was named most valuable player in the Pacific Coast League, hitting .361. (Of course, all his brother Joe did that year was hit .381 for the Yankees -- his highest average ever.)

Dom said he could do only two things better than his brother: play pinochle and speak Italian. But he was being somewhat disingenuous. He was very fast and used his speed effectively on the basepaths and in the outfield. He was a solid hitter, with a lifetime average of .298, and he drew a lot of walks. He played 10 full seasons in the major leagues (1940-42, 1946-52), and in those years no other player had more base hits than Dom, with 1,680. Only Ted Williams scored more runs than Dom's 1,046 during that time.

Dom was a run-scoring machine and finished in the top three in runs scored six times during his career (twice finishing behind Williams and his brother). He led the league twice, in 1950 and 1951, and in 1950 led the American League in stolen bases, as well. His 15 steals are the lowest league-leading total in history.

But what made him remarkable was his brilliant fielding. While preparing the obituary, I ran across one casual reference, in a 1991 story by The Post's William Gildea, about how DiMaggio would stand sideways in center field, facing the left-field foul line, as he awaited the pitch.

As an amateur baseball historian, I was astonished by this discovery. I have never seen or heard of any centerfielder positioning himself this way. I continued digging and found a fascinating article from Baseball Digest magazine, in which DiMaggio described how and why he adopted the unusual stance: 
"I played center field at a right angle to the plate, with my left foot facing the plate and my right foot parallel to the center field fence. It was something I thought of myself. I played outfield that way from the beginning when I played in the sand lots in San Francisco. My feeling was that I got a better jump on the ball that way. I could get a quicker start on fly balls over my head, coud come in faster on line drives to short center, and could charge ground balls better."
... "My defensive game was based on speed and a strong throwing arm. I could go a long way to catch flies and throw out runners trying to move up after a catch. Fenway's distances and its configuration were not ideally suited to my speed as the larger parks like Yankee Stadium, Griffith Stadium or Municpal Stadium in Cleveland. I loved playing in those big outfields where I could really let it out."

Ted Williams, who played alongside Dom for 10 years, said, "He was as good a centerfielder as I ever saw."

David Halberstam's affectionate book, "The Teammates," describes the relationship of four Red Sox players from the 1940s: DiMaggio, Williams, Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky. The centerpiece of the book recounts a road trip DiMaggio and Pesky took together to Florida in 2001 to visit the ailing Williams. At one point, DiMaggio broke into song, singing a sentimental Italian ballad.

"Ted loved it," Halberstam wrote. "He started clapping, and so Dominic sang it again, and Ted clapped again. 'Dommy, Dommy, you did really well,' Ted said when he finished."

Despite rumors that Joe and Dom DiMaggio had had a falling out, the brothers remained close, and in many ways Joe may have envied his younger brother. Joe became rich in later years by endorsing Mr. Coffee and Bowery Savings Bank and appearing at celebrity golf tournaments, but Dom earned a fortune the old-fashioned way: He founded a company that made carpeting and upholstery for cars. Dom was also among the first investors in the Boston Patriots football franchise in the old American Football League and twice tried unsuccessfully to buy the Boston Red Sox.

He was also married for 60 years to the same woman and had three children who turned out to be well educated and successful. (He also quietly battled Paget's disease, a bone disorder that causes malformation of the bones and joints, and testified before Congress about the disease.) Joe was married to two actresses, most notriously Marilyn Monroe, of course, and had one son from his marriage to Dorothy Arnold. Joe DiMaggio Jr. turned out to be a ne'er-do-well who died five months after his father's death in 1999.

Joe had a high, if somewhat reserved public profile throughout his life and was more than a little standoffish and prickly. He insisted on being introduced as "the greatest living ballplayer," even though that was a debatable point, at best.

In later years, Dom became quite protective of his brother and was bitterly opposed to what he saw as the manipulative behavior of Joe's lawyer, Morris Engelberg. Engelberg reportedly kept friends and even family members away from Joe, alienating many longtime acquaintances. It was Dom who made all the funeral arrangements after his brother died, inviting the commissioner of baseball and other dignitaries to the funeral.

Dom DiMaggio kept a lot of secrets about his brother, including about Joe's never-ending love for Marilyn Monroe. In 1954, he even tried to patch up their failing marriage to Marilyn by writing a letter to both of them, but it was to no avail.

"Joe wanted a wife he could raise children with," Dom told Sports Illustrated in 2001. "She could not do that. When they separated, I wrote to them that it was important for them to stay together, to try to make it work, that the whole world looked upon their marriage as the ideal. I know Marilyn accepted the letter and read it to Joe, but it did not help. Joe had wanted that relationship to work. He held on to it for the rest of his life."

Joe and Marilyn had no children, but their marriage produced perhaps my favorite celebrity anecdote of all time. Soon after they were married, they toured American military outposts in Korea. Marilyn -- perhaps accustomed to the relative quiet of movie sets -- walked onstage to ecstatic cheers, hoots, hollers and whistles. 
When she returned to the wings, she told her husband, "Joe, you've never heard such cheering."
"Yes, I have," he said.

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