The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Joe DiMaggio - Grunge (2023)

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ByBranden C. Potter/Oct. 29, 2020 11:24 am EST

There have been many great baseball players over the years who have reached the pinnacle of their talent and made a name for themselves in the game. However, there's only a handful who have left a legacy as memorable and a record as high as the New York Yankees' Joe DiMaggio. Nicknamed "Joltin' Joe" and "the Yankee Clipper," DiMaggio achieved a level of success many baseball players can only dream of by winning the Yankees nine World Series and ten pennants, and setting a record with his 56-game hitting streak, as per theChicago Tribune.

Because of his intense work ethic and accomplishments on the field, DiMaggio was held to a higher standard. As sportswriterRyan Fergusonwrote, "the great DiMaggio was a construct of fable, a portrait of perfection created by an awestruck media and enriched by an adoring citizenry." For years, people saw the highlights, the winning scores, and the person that DiMaggio allowed them to see. On the field, he was a legend, but off the field, he suffered tragedies and made mistakes: He was flawed like any other person. Here is a look at tragic real-life story of Joe DiMaggio.

Joe DiMaggio's early life

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Joseph Paul DiMaggio was born Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio on November 25, 1914, and was the son of Giuseppe and Rosalie DiMaggio, two Italian immigrants who came to America in 1898, as perBiography. When Joe was still a baby, the DiMaggios moved to San Francisco, where his father, Giuseppe, worked hard as a fisherman, writesRyan Ferguson. Giuseppe had hoped all his sons would follow the family's tradition of working as fishermen, but his children had different aspirations. According toJoe DiMaggio's official website, Joe and two of his brothers, Vince and Dominic, would spend their time at the neighborhood sandlots and dreamed of making it as baseball players.

Joe would do anything he could to get away from having to smell dead fish and clean his father's boat. Giuseppe resented his sons' desire to work in another field, which went against the family's traditions and seemed unrealistic. Giuseppe would often call Joe "good for nothing" and did all he could to encourage him to be a fisherman. Eventually, Vince was signed to the San Francisco Seals and began making money as a baseball player. With some encouragement from Vince, Joe would prove himself on the field and eventually outshine his brother after being added to the team. Joe went on to get national attention and got signed to the big leagues, becoming a New York Yankee.

Joe DiMaggio kept quiet and kept to himself

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According toThe Baltimore Sun, Richard Ben Cramer, who won a Pulitzer Prize with thePhiladelphia Inquirerand set the standard for political reporting withWhat it Takes(1992), revealed a side of Joe DiMaggio that was ultimately hidden from the public in his bookJoe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life. Cramer wrote about how DiMaggio kept quiet around others most of his life. Many thought it was a sign of humility, but it was actually due to him worrying that he'd embarrass himself or make a mistake. DiMaggio was a perfectionist on the field, and that same quality crept into his personal life. He would rarely say a word around friends, family, or his teammates.

In 1936, DiMaggio rode in a car for 3,000 miles with his teammates Tony Lazzeri and Frank Crosetti from San Francisco to Florida for spring training and never said more than "I don't drive" when it was his turn. DiMaggio spoke his first words to Mickey Mantle after the latter injured his knee during the World Series, saying, "Don't move. They're bringing a stretcher." Joltin' Joe's best way of talking was by winning for the Yankees, making the fans roar in the stands while the press printed their own version of his life.

Joe DiMaggio's father was mistreated during WWII

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DuringWorld War II, the United States was under fear of an attack from enemy forces and went to great lengths to protect its citizens. However, hysteria was built up by the press and government, which led to many horrible mistakes being made, such as hundreds of thousands of Italians, Germans, and Japanese being declared "enemy aliens," as per theLA Times.Joe DiMaggio's father Giuseppe was considered an "enemy alien" and wasn't allowed to visit the family restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf. The government also restricted his ability to travel, saying he couldn't go more than five miles from home without permission.

General John DeWitt, leading officer in the Western Defense Command, wanted to have Joe DiMaggio's father arrested, according toSmithsonian Magazine. DeWitt believed there were "no exceptions" and felt he could make a point by arresting Giuseppe because he didn't have citizenship papers. The government went to even greater lengths when they seized Giuseppe's fishing boat. Months later, he was able to return to the fishing dock, and not long after,The New York Timesreported on his mistreatment.

Joe DiMaggio's time in World War II

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World War II even affected the sports leagues, causing many professional athletes to serve in different branches of the military. Joe DiMaggio served in the Army and missed three years of his prime. Many fans say DiMaggio might have had an even more impressive record if he hadn't been taken out of the game. While he never saw combat or got deployed overseas, DiMaggio served as a physical instructor in the Army's Special Services and played in Army baseball games. According to theNew York Post, Army documents indicated that DiMaggio had a "defective attitude" toward military service, which isn't hard to believe when you take into account how his father was mistreated. According to reports, DiMaggio felt he was being exploited by the Army because they were using his status as a professional baseball player for public relations.

Joltin' Joe was also going through the pains of divorce from his wife, who had custody of his son. Doctors said DiMaggio was more concerned with personal problems than his "obligations to adjust to the demands of the service." Major Emile G. Stoloff believed DiMaggio was trying to get released early by faking stomach ulcers. DiMaggio certainly sacrificed and endured, and then he ended up showing the world what they'd been missing. After DiMaggio returned to the Yankees in 1946, he won the American League MVP the next year and led the Yankees to a World Series title.

Joe DiMaggio retires from baseball

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After playing with the New York Yankees for 13 seasons and winning them nine World Series titles, DiMaggio retired from baseball. DiMaggio had been suffering from increasing pains in his heel and couldn't play his best, as perBiography. "I feel like I have reached the stage where I can no longer produce for my club, my manager, and my teammates," he said. "I had a poor year, but even if I had hit .350, this would have been my last year. I was full of aches and pains and it had become a chore for me to play. When baseball is no longer fun, it is no longer a game."

The Yankee Clipper left people wanting more, as opposed to fading while trying to stay on top. In 1955, DiMaggio would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. As for the Yankees, Mickey Mantle would be the next in line to lead them to more World Series. In retirement, DiMaggio tried broadcasting baseball games and lived the life of an eligible bachelor, as told byRyan Ferguson. DiMaggio dated lots of different women, but no woman caught his heart like Marilyn Monroe.

Joe DiMaggio's Marriage to Marilyn Monroe

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Joe DiMaggio fell in love with the famous actress and sex symbolMarilyn Monroeand spent 18 months courting her. Monroe was initially reluctant to date DiMaggio, fearing he was the typical arrogant athlete. However, DiMaggio showed her another side that she couldn't resist. On January 14, 1954, DiMaggio and Monroe married, as perBiography. The two were seen as the perfect couple, yet behind closed doors, it couldn't have been further from true. Once they were married, their relationship began to experience a series of problems. According to theChicago Tribune, Richard Ben Cramer described DiMaggio as an "unbearable husband," and their relationship began to suffer due to his jealousy.

DiMaggio wanted Monroe to become more of a housewife at the same time her career was taking off. He was also very outraged when seeing Monroe's skirt-blowing scene inThe Seven Year Itch. Their marriage became a roller coaster. It ended nine months later when Monroe made her announcement of theirdivorce, claiming it was due to mental cruelty, writesLife.

Joe DiMaggio's attempt to rekindle his marriage and the death of Marilyn Monroe

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After their divorce, Marilyn Monroe tried to move on, marrying playwright Arthur Miller. Joe DiMaggio was crushed, and his feelings for her couldn't change. In 1961, after Monroe and Miller divorced, DiMaggio came back into her life and tried to bring stability while it was spiraling out of control. He did all he could to keep her away from trouble, to no avail. According toLife, if DiMaggio had more time, he could have been the person to pull her out of depression, drugs, and affairs with married men. DiMaggio had wanted to remarry Monroe, and it's possible he could have saved her life. While DiMaggio was a self-admitted control freak, it appears some of that control could have been used for good.

On August 4, 1962, Monroe passed away. After herdeath, DiMaggio was devastated and never married again. According toBiography, DiMaggio had roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for 20 years. DiMaggio did his best to keep Monroe away from troubled men, yet he was also involved with a dangerous group of people known for their underground criminal enterprises.

Joe DiMaggio had ties with the Mafia

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It seems everyone wanted a piece of Joe DiMaggio, especially theMafia. According to theTampa Bay Times, Richard Cramer wrote in his book that DiMaggio was able to walk away from his $100,000-a-year salary with the Yankees in 1951 because of his involvement with the Mafia. Mobster Frank Costello had set up a "trust fund" at the Bowery Bank for him. Whenever DiMaggio visited nightclubs like the Copacabana, Stork Club, or El Morocco, $200 was deposited into the account. Costello loved Joltin' Joe and felt he was helping his retirement out by giving him money.

DiMaggio was also involved with members of the New Jersey mob, such as the famous Abner "Longy" Zwillman and Richie "The Boot" Boiardo. "Longy had three boxes of cash, which he left at Joe's house for 'safekeeping,'" Cramer said. "But when Longy was found hanging from his chandelier in West Orange, Joe kept the cash." DiMaggio's involvement with the mob allegedly goes deeper and reaches into other known Mafia groups such as theGambinosand theChicago Mafia.

Joe DiMaggio's son lived a hard life

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During Joe DiMaggio's marriage to his first wife, actress Dorothy Arnold, the baseball great had one son with her and named him after himself. When Joe DiMaggio was in the hospital during his last days, his son was asked by the press why he wasn't there with him. Joe DiMaggio Jr. toldInside Edition(via theNew York Post), "You know, I never got the words 'come now,' or I would've been there in a flash." When asked about what it was like being the son of Joe DiMaggio, Joe Jr. proclaimed he had a good life growing up, saying: "Whatever he's given me has always been the best. Never, never second rate. Always the best."

In his later years, DiMaggio Jr. went through some very difficult situations and lived a hard life. According toThe New York Times, DiMaggio Jr. had a history of drug abuse and had a few run-ins with the police. DiMaggio Jr. was also homeless for periods of time and ended up working in a junkyard and living in a trailer during the last years of his life. As a young adult, DiMaggio Jr. attended Yale but dropped out to join the Marines. He lived alone most of his life and worked for a trucking company. In August 1999, DiMaggio Jr., 57, passed away, mere months after his father.

Joe DiMaggio's home was damaged in the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake

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At the age of 74, Joe DiMaggio was sitting with the American League president (ex-teammate Dr. Bobby Brown) at Candlestick Park when the1989 San Francisco earthquakehit. DiMaggio was next spotted seeking aid at a Red Cross shelter, holding garbage bags in his hands. ”My home has been pretty badly damaged,” DiMaggio said, as reported by theChicago Tribune, ”and right now they won`t let me back in. They won't allow it.” DiMaggio also said he was looking for someone and couldn't find them.

According to theTampa Bay Times, Richard Cramer wrote in his book that the garbage bags DiMaggio was holding were full of $600,000 in cash from memorabilia signings. The Yankee Clipper was known for trusting people less and less as he got older, and it seemed to be another sign he was looking out for himself. DiMaggio was fortunate to not be hurt, as 63 people perished and thousands were injured in theearthquake. Nonetheless, over the years, DiMaggio's physical health would decline.

Joe DiMaggio passes away

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On March 8, 1999, the Yankee Clipper, one the best to ever play the game, Joe DiMaggio passed away from complications of lung cancer at the age of 84. According to theChicago Tribune, DiMaggio was a chain-smoker and insomniac, spurred by the pressure to always play at his best during his career. After his passing, the Yankees, led by Derek Jeter, wore patches on their uniforms the whole season to commemorate DiMaggio. They would go on to win their 25th World Series later that same season, writesRyan Ferguson.

According toBiography, even the president of the United States, Bill Clinton, honored DiMaggio, saying: "Today, America lost one of the century's most beloved heroes, Joe DiMaggio. This son of Italian immigrants gave every American something to believe in. He became the very symbol of American grace, power and skill. I have no doubt that when future generations look back at the best of America in the 20th century, they will think of the Yankee Clipper and all that he achieved."

Joe DiMaggio's lawyer allegedly tried to steal from him

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Richard Ben Cramer wrote in his book that Joe DiMaggio was held captive for five months by his lawyer, Morris Engelberg, while he died in the hospital. According to Cramer, Engelberg had the legendary ball player's 1936 World Series ring pried from his finger moments after he passed away. Engelberg built a trust with DiMaggio by making him more money than all of his previous business partners. However, the deceptive lawyer was hoping to take much more without DiMaggio ever knowing. Engelbeg stashed hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of DiMaggio's memorabilia, like lithographs, balls, and canceled checks, without DiMaggio's knowledge, hoping to sell them and pocket the profits.

According to theTampa Bay Times, Engelbeg defended himself, calling the accusations "absurd" and saying, "Over a 16-year period, I waived more than $5-million of agent fees, plus legal, accounting and other fees, which amounted to a significant sum of money. Why would I scam a few thousand dollars from Joe DiMaggio?"

Joe DiMaggio trusted fewer people as he got older, but he couldn't keep away everyone who wanted to either exploit or use him in some way to their own gain. DiMaggio may have also brought many of his problems on himself. However, one thing is certain: He'll always be a symbol of greatness in baseball and for anyone aspiring to do the best at what they love.


What did the great Joe DiMaggio suffer from? ›

To Santiago, Joe DiMaggio — who was and still is considered the greatest baseball player in history — represents what a man should be. Santiago idolizes DiMaggio in part because he (DiMaggio) suffered through the pain of a bone spur to make a great comeback.

What were Joe DiMaggio's last words? ›

“I'll finally get to see Marilyn,” DiMaggio whispered. Morris Engelberg, who was at the Yankee outfielder's bedsidewhen he died, recalled DiMaggio's last words in a story in VanityFair magazine. It was not the first time DiMaggio had said that, Engelberg saidTuesday from his office in Hollywood, Fla.

Did Joe DiMaggio have a temper? ›

Though known to be short-tempered in private, DiMaggio refrained from showing such behavior in public. A painfully private person, he was always careful and protective of his image, understanding that it was his legacy. "It is not for DiMaggio's records that we remember him," writes Ira Berkow of The New York Times.

What was the relationship between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe? ›

Marilyn Monroe and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio wed in 1954 (second marriages for both), and were divorced nine months later. That the union was doomed from the beginning was, perhaps, easy to foresee.

What did Joe DiMaggio say when Marilyn Monroe died? ›

According to the account of the funeral printed in the "New York Times," DiMaggio bent down to Monroe, saying "I love you. I love you." For two decades, DiMaggio had flowers delivered to Marilyn's grave twice a week.

Why isn t Joe DiMaggio buried with Marilyn Monroe? ›

Joe DiMaggio had purchased two crypts in Westwood Cemetery for he and his famous wife, and while divorcing in 1954 sold his to Richard Poncher. The crypt Poncher bought was located directly above that which would eventually hold the remains of Marilyn Monroe (in 1962).

Who was the love of Joe DiMaggio's life? ›

Joe DiMaggio's love for actress Marilyn Monroe is well catalogued, but a new biography written by one of the Yankee great's longtime friends delves deeper into their fabled romance — revealing what qualities he loved most about her, why they divorced, and whom he blamed for her death.

Who was the last person to talk to Marilyn Monroe? ›

On the night of August 4, 1962, her friend Peter Lawford spoke to Monroe for what would be the last time. According to police reports from 1962, released in 1985, Lawford sensed “something was wrong” when he spoke to the star on the phone that evening.

How old was Marilyn Monroe when she married Joe DiMaggio? ›

The two met when Marilyn was still only 25 and DiMaggio was 37. They got married at city hall in San Francisco. The couple's marriage only lasted nine months, with Marilyn filing for divorce in 1954, according to People.

What are 3 facts about Joe DiMaggio? ›

DiMaggio received the Most Valuable Player award for the American League in 1939, 1941, and 1947. He retired at the end of the 1951 season. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. In 1954 DiMaggio married film star Marilyn Monroe; this only added to his iconic status in American culture.

Has anyone beaten Joe DiMaggio? ›

New York Yankees' star DiMaggio got a hit for 56 games in a row. No one has come close to beating his record.

Was Joe DiMaggio a hero? ›

Joe DiMaggio was a cultural icon. He married Hollywood starlets Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Arnold and he was immortalized in Paul Simon's hit song Mrs. Robinson; to a generation he was the face of Mister Coffee, and he was regarded as one of the greatest players who ever played the game. He was an American hero.

Did Marilyn Monroe have a baby? ›

Does Marilyn have any children? No. Although Marilyn was married three times (first to James Dougherty, followed by baseball star Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller), she did not have any children before her death in 1962. However, she really wanted to have a family and did have multiple documented pregnancies.

How long was Marilyn married to Joe? ›

Their union lasted five years, resulting in the birth of one son, Joe Jr. As such, DiMaggio and Monroe's wedding was cause for some scandal in 1954. A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco publicly stated that DiMaggio was automatically excommunicated from the church when he remarried.

How old was Marilyn Monroe when she died? ›

ollywood, Calif., Aug. 5 -- Marilyn Monroe, one of the most famous stars in Hollywood's history, was found dead early today in the bedroom of her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. She was 36 years old. Beside the bed was an empty bottle that had contained sleeping pills.

Who sent Marilyn the bear? ›

The truth only came out after Cass's death. Eddy informed Monroe of Cass's passing and sent her a box, in which she found a teddy bear that resembled the one she had in her childhood and a letter addressed to her as her father.

What happened to the house where Marilyn Monroe died? ›

In the early morning of August 5, 1962, six months after purchasing the home, Monroe was found dead of a barbiturate overdose in her bedroom. In 2017, the house was put for sale for $6.9 million and eventually sold for $7.25 million.

Why is Hugh Hefner next to Marilyn Monroe? ›

And then she was gone." Hefner bought the plot from a private seller who realized that the spot in the crypt next to Monroe could fetch a good price from the right buyer, the magazine reported. "I am very, very aware of my place in history," Hefner said.

What was the cause of Joe DiMaggio's death? ›

DiMaggio didn't live that long. He died on March 8, after a five-month battle with lung cancer, in Hollywood, Florida.

Did Marilyn Monroe ever marry? ›

Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller on June 29th, 1956. The marriage lasted five years. In the early months of 1956 Marilyn Monroe was preparing to star in Bus Stop, discussing with Laurence Olivier a role in The Prince and the Showgirl and romancing Arthur Miller, who was divorcing his wife, Mary.

Who was Marilyn Monroe's famous husband? ›

How old would Marilyn Monroe be if alive today? ›

The Hollywood icon passed away on August 4, 1962, aged 36, but if she were alive in 2022, she would be 96 years old, the same age as Queen Elizabeth II.

How old would Marilyn Monroe be today if she had lived? ›

Marilyn Monroe would be 96-years-old if she were alive today.

Who was the first person to find Marilyn Monroe? ›

Ralph Greenson, broke into her bedroom by smashing a window to find the actress dead in her bed, with an empty bottle of sleeping pills on her nightstand. Monroe's housekeeper, Eunice Murray, had awakened in the middle of the night to find a light on in Marilyn's room and the door locked. Murray called Dr.

Who was last husband of Marilyn Monroe? ›

What happened to Marilyn Monroe's father? ›

Gifford, who fathered two other children, died of a heart attack at the age of 66 in 1965 – three years after Monroe died of an apparent overdose.

What did Joe DiMaggio do to Mickey Mantle? ›

In Game Two of the 1951 World Series, chasing a fly ball hit by Mays and caught by DiMaggio, Mantle's spikes caught in a drainpipe covering. He tore up his right knee, and he never would play another pain-free game. The next year, with DiMaggio's retirement, Mantle moved to centerfield.

Was Joe DiMaggio a Millionaire? ›

Joe DiMaggio was an American professional baseball player who had a net worth of $50 million at the time of his death.

Did Joe DiMaggio have a child? ›

His name was Joe DiMaggio Jr. Joe Jr., DiMaggio's namesake and only child, was born on October 23, 1941, to DiMaggio's first wife, Dorothy Arnold.

Was Joe DiMaggio nice to Marilyn Monroe? ›

DiMaggio was “obsessed” with Monroe, tried to control his wife's career, discouraged her from taking roles that reinforced her sexualized blonde-bombshell image and wanted her to dress more modestly and not outshine him in public, Slate reported.

Who has come closest to DiMaggio? ›

The person to come closest to DiMaggio's record since 1941 was Pete Rose, whose streak in 1978 reached 44 games. An exciting (and quick) two months. Fifty-six games sounds like a lot of baseball, and it's certainly a long streak, but it came and went rather quickly. The 1941 season started on April 14th.

Who has the closest streak to Joe DiMaggio? ›

Major League Baseball
Joe DiMaggio561941
Willie Keeler451896-1897
Pete Rose441978
Bill Dahlen421894
52 more rows
Sep 16, 2022

Why was DiMaggio called Joltin Joe? ›

DiMaggio's skills were much-lauded in his day, and he was voted the American League's most valuable player three times. Fans and writers called him "Joltin' Joe" because of his hard hitting.

Was Joe DiMaggio better than Mickey Mantle? ›

Both are among the greatest of all players, but Joe DiMaggio was a better hitter and a clearly superior fielder. Joe didn't have Mantle's speed, but he was one of the best base runners who ever played the game. Mickey had more raw power, but he struck out 1,710 times compared to DiMaggio's 369.

What happened to Joe DiMaggio in 1949? ›

It was in March of that 1949 season when DiMaggio finally succumbed to a long aching right heel, and announced that he would not be ready for Opening Day. Bone spurs lingered, and the pain was as powerful as his swing.

How many times did DiMaggio strike out? ›

DiMaggio finished his career with a . 325 batting average, 361 home runs, 1,527 RBI and a scant 369 strikeouts. He was named to the All-Star Game in each of his 13 seasons, and the Yankees won the American League pennant 10 times in his 13 years.


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