Story of the Week

JOE DIMAGGIO

    Babe Ruth played on seven pennant winners and four championship teams in his 15 years as a Yankee. Joe DiMaggio played on 10 pennant winners and nine championship teams during his 13-year career as a Yankee.

    At 19, Joe D. hit in 61 straight games for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. No one could foresee the future, but a similar record would be DiMaggioís in 1941. Purchased by the Yankees in 1936, he hit .323 as a rookie, led the AL in home runs and runs scored the following year, and in 1939, he led the league in batting and was named MVP for the first time.

    He won the batting crown again in 1940, and the RBI title in 1941; the latter was a year of major controversy as DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games while Ted Williams batted .406. Those two feats have not been matched since. DiMaggio was named MVP of the AL, ostensibly because he was far more popular with the media than was Williams. (I maintain that the MVP that year should have been Ted Williams.)

    After his return from military service, DiMaggio had a sub-par 1946. The next spring, ironically, he was almost traded to the Red Sox for Ted Williams; the logic was that Yankee Stadium was more suited to Williams as a left-handed hitter, and Fenway Park was more suited to DiMaggio as a right-handed hitter. It is unclear as to which team called the deal off, or if they both did. Joe D. responded by winning his third MVP award in 1947, and blasting two home runs in the World Series.

    On February 7, 1949, DiMaggio became the first $100,000 baseball player, a wee bit smaller than todayís standards, and, despite serious injuries, helped the Yankees win the pennant and Series. In 1951, he retired with a .325 career batting average, having played on All-Star teams in every year of major league service. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1955.

    DiMaggio served on the Board of Directors of the Aís and the Orioles, was married to Marilyn Monroe (he belongs in the Hall of Fame for this alone), did commercials for banks and coffee-makers, and was involved in signing memorabilia for profit (why not?!) for years. He retained an aura of heroism, star-status, and extreme privacy.

    As a kid, I saw him play when the Yankees came into St. Louis to take batting practice against the lowly but loveable Browns. Joe D. was one of the greatest players Iíve ever seen, and I rank him as the second-best all-around center fielder Iíve ever seen, second only to Willie Mays.

Last Weekís Trivia

    All but two Heisman winners of the 90ís were either QBís or RBís. Who were these two exceptions? The U. of Michigan produced them both. Desmond Howard, WR, in 1991, and Charles Woodson, CB, in 1997.

Trivia Question of the Week

    Who was Pete Gray? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the "detailed" answer.