Results tagged ‘ joe dimaggio ’

November 25 – Happy Birthday Joe DiMaggio

Today is like a holy day of obligation for Big Apple sports enthusiasts. On this date in 1916, the “Great DiMaggio” was born in Martinez, CA.  He was and probably still is one of the most revered athletes in our country and perhaps the world. As a kid growing up, all I knew about DiMaggio was based on his statistics as a player, the nostalgic observations of sportswriters and the often embellished memories of the older generation of Yankee fans who were my neighbors on the west end of Amsterdam. While his stats indeed indicated DiMaggio was a great player, the latter two sources considered him a “God.” In fact, during my childhood, one of the most frequently heard lines in any argument between a young fan of Mickey Mantle and an older fan of Joe DiMaggio was  “Mantle couldn’t carry DiMaggio’s jock strap.”

I’ve since read quite a few books about DiMaggio and about the Yankees during the DiMaggio era. The last one I read was the critical 2001 biography by Ben Cramer. I’ve come to the conclusion that much of the aura that surrounded the Yankee Clipper was based on his amazing baseball skills and achievements. But a large part of it was also due to the fact that the New York and national sports media of his era worshiped the guy and Joe maneuvered that worship brilliantly.  This level of celebrity pandering by the media has become much less possible because today’s athletes get too much exposure. For example, Yankee fans can watch their team play every single spring training, regular and postseason game on high definition, big-screen TVs. Sportswriters are no longer free to embellish something that everyone is seeing with their own eyes. The Internet and the proliferation of sports bloggers has also made hiding a star player’s off-the-field behavior nearly impossible. Just ask A-Rod.

I would have loved to watch Joe DiMaggio play the game but I didn’t get the opportunity. As a die hard Yankee fan, I celebrate his accomplishments. But I believe the truth is that DiMaggio eventually got wrapped up in his own press clippings to the point that he actually believed he was perfect and that everyone else was out to get him. It was the pressure of maintaining that image that made DiMaggio a bitter man, the superstar who would not say a single word to a young Mickey Mantle during the Mick’s rookie season, who thought Casey Stengel was trying to embarrass him into retirement, and who pretty much abandoned his only son. Why is it that people who have so much going for them have such a difficult time just being happy?

Several years ago, I took my boys to a Yankee game and we were sitting next to a young Yankee fan who loved Don Mattingly. He knew everything about the then current team but not so much about Yankee history so when he told me that Mattingly was a better hitter than Mantle was, I couldn’t help myself. I found myself saying, “Son, Mattingly couldn’t carry Mickey Mantle’s jock strap.” I have to admit the line felt good coming out of my mouth until the completely unfazed kid responded with “What’s a jock strap, mister?”

DiMaggio shares his November 25th birthday with this former Yankee infielder, this Yankee outfielder and this more recent Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1936 NYY 138 669 637 132 206 44 15 29 125 4 24 39 .323 .352 .576 .928
1937 NYY 151 692 621 151 215 35 15 46 167 3 64 37 .346 .412 .673 1.085
1938 NYY 145 660 599 129 194 32 13 32 140 6 59 21 .324 .386 .581 .967
1939 NYY 120 524 462 108 176 32 6 30 126 3 52 20 .381 .448 .671 1.119
1940 NYY 132 572 508 93 179 28 9 31 133 1 61 30 .352 .425 .626 1.051
1941 NYY 139 622 541 122 193 43 11 30 125 4 76 13 .357 .440 .643 1.083
1942 NYY 154 680 610 123 186 29 13 21 114 4 68 36 .305 .376 .498 .875
1946 NYY 132 567 503 81 146 20 8 25 95 1 59 24 .290 .367 .511 .878
1947 NYY 141 601 534 97 168 31 10 20 97 3 64 32 .315 .391 .522 .913
1948 NYY 153 669 594 110 190 26 11 39 155 1 67 30 .320 .396 .598 .994
1949 NYY 76 329 272 58 94 14 6 14 67 0 55 18 .346 .459 .596 1.055
1950 NYY 139 606 525 114 158 33 10 32 122 0 80 33 .301 .394 .585 .979
1951 NYY 116 482 415 72 109 22 4 12 71 0 61 36 .263 .365 .422 .787
13 Yrs 1736 7673 6821 1390 2214 389 131 361 1537 30 790 369 .325 .398 .579 .977
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/24/2013.

January 18 – Happy Birthday to a Number 5

pinstripe.5.jpgThe Yankees began wearing numbers on their uniforms during the 1929 season. At the time, the numbers were assigned based on the player’s batting position in the lineup. This explains how Babe Ruth got the number three and how Yankee cleanup hitter, Lou Gehrig secured number 4. The first Yankee to wear number 5 during that 1929 season was the talented but very moody outfielder, Bob Meusel. In 1930, it was assigned to the great second baseman, Tony “Poosh em Up” Lazzeri. Frank Crosetti was then given the number in 1932 and Lazzeri was switched to number 6. Crosetti wore number 5 for the next four seasons except for a short time, during the 1935 season, when the Crow got hurt and couldn’t play. The Yankees called up Nolen Richardson to take Crosetti’s spot. Richardson was a middle infielder who had played a bit of big league ball for the Tigers before he joined the Yankee organization. Since he was replacing Crosetti, the Yankees gave him uniform number 5. The 32-year-old native of Chattanooga, TN did not see much action in that uniform, appearing in just 12 games that season before getting sent down to New York’s Newark Bears farm club. He became a popular member of the Bears and was the Captain of the 1937 team that is still considered to be one of the greatest teams in minor league history, winning the International League’s pennant that season by 25 1/2 games.

Joe DiMaggio did not get number 5 until 1937, his second season in pinstripes. Crosetti kept the number until 1936. Joltin Joe wore number 9 as a rookie in 1936. Incredibly, the Yankees didn’t even keep number 5 in mothballs during the WWII when Joe D served in the military. Instead, New York’s wartime first baseman, Nick Etten got the number in 1943 and kept it until the Yankee Clipper returned for the 1946 season.

The only other Yankee born on this date was still waiting to make his debut in pinstripes as the 2014 regular season approaches.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1935 NYY 12 49 46 3 10 1 1 0 5 0 3 1 .217 .265 .283 .548
6 Yrs 168 509 473 39 117 19 5 0 45 8 23 22 .247 .282 .309 .591
DET (3 yrs) 120 351 324 28 78 14 4 0 30 8 17 17 .241 .279 .309 .587
CIN (2 yrs) 36 109 103 8 29 4 0 0 10 0 3 4 .282 .302 .320 .622
NYY (1 yr) 12 49 46 3 10 1 1 0 5 0 3 1 .217 .265 .283 .548
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.