Does Joe Dimaggio hold any World Series records?

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Does Joe Dimaggio hold any World Series records?

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  1. Guest2653
    Abstract from : Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer
    May 28th, 2008 by Matt Smith

    Heralded for many years as ‘baseball’s greatest living player’, Joe DiMaggio was, and due to his enduring legend still is, one of the true giants of the sport. While his life has been the inspiration for countless books, Richard Ben Cramer’s biography is generally considered the definitive account.

    DiMaggio has the dubious honour of being one of the very few ballplayers who even Brits of a certain generation will have heard of. He might be known as “that bloke in the Simon and Garfunkel song”, or more probably “that bloke who married Marilyn Monroe”, but he will be known in any case, which over here is a rare feat for a baseball star. His relationship with the Hollywood icon is covered in great depth here, which is understandable considering this is a book on DiMaggio’s life rather than his baseball career alone. It might not be of great interest to all baseball fans, but it’s undoubtedly an important part of the DiMaggio legend and deserves its prominent billing.

    The large section on his relationship with Monroe is all the more bearable because it is preceded by three hundred odd pages on his upbringing, his time in the Coast League and primarily his thirteen seasons with the New York Yankees. Reported in exceptional detail, DiMaggio’s career is recalled year by year and leaves the reader in no doubt as to why he assumed such legendary status. It wasn’t just that he won three MVP awards, or that he played with such brilliance and grace. What really made DiMaggio stand out was that his personal performances were the catalyst for a Yankee dynasty that resulted in Joltin’ Joe and his team mates winning nine World Series rings.

    He was the sort of player who even his peers were in awe of. As Cramer himself describes: “He excelled and continued to excel, against the ‘natural’ odds. He exceeded, withal, the cruellest expectations: He was expected to lead and to win – and he did. He was expected to be the best – and he was. He was expected to be the exemplar of dignity, class, grace – expected even to look the best … And he looked perfect”.

    While there were countless moments when DiMaggio stepped up and won the day for the Yankees, perhaps his most memorable feat occurred during the 1941 season with his fifty-six consecutive game hitting streak. Cramer brings the streak to life, evoking the spirit of the time and the way in which the whole of America was transfixed by the daily updates on his progress. Of course, it came at a time when such a diversion could not have been more welcome, with a nation looking on at the horrific events in Europe fearful of what the future may hold.

    When a person obtains legendary status, you can be sure that their story will contain more than a few myths and half-truths. Cramer does his best to pick them apart. DiMaggio liked to tell the story of when his younger brother Dominic (a good ballplayer in his own right, even if Joe seemed reluctant to give him much credit) nearly ended the streak by catching a long drive that seemed a sure hit. Cramer states that it never happened, but that it “satisfied Joe to think it did”. If Joe was happy to tell this story, then many other people were happy to repeat it.

    When reading Cramer’s biography, you gain a real understanding of the way in which the Yankee Clipper gave people all the room they needed to create the public persona of ‘Joe DiMaggio’. Naturally shy, he was a man of few words, even to those who he played alongside for many years. If Joe wasn’t going to give the journalists a neat little quote for their story, well the journalists might as well just fill in the blanks themselves. They knew how the public wanted Joe to look and sound and they were happy to oblige them. Fine for the times, but another factor to take into account when looking back at his life and trying to distinguish between myth and reality (accepting that the myths are just as important in themselves for understanding how Joe was perceived at the time).

    This process was followed even at the ‘Joe DiMaggio Day’ in September 1998, when his health was rapidly deteriorating. The wistful comments attributed to the Yankee great in relation to the celebrations came from the same minds as those that were reporting about the event. Cramer dryly notes that “for sixty years writers had to make up what Joe cared about”.

    In fact, the DiMaggio Day neatly sums up the latter stages of his life. His motivation for agreeing to the event was purely financial. After his retirement at the end of the 1951 season, DiMaggio’s insatiable drive for excellence on the ballfield was channelled into making as much money as possible via souvenirs and merchandise bearing his name. It was the possible $3 million he might earn from the day that occupied his mind, not the cheers of the adoring crowd. The crowing glory of DiMaggio Day saw him being presented with replicas of his nine World Series rings. They were there to replace eight of the originals that had been stolen, or so the story went. Cramer contends that was untrue: “more likely he traded them for free lodging, food, transportation, services of every kind”.

    As DiMaggio’s character is laid bare, it’s difficult to come away from the book liking the man, but expecting a hero to be perfect is always liable to lead to disappointment. That Cramer reveals his flaws actually makes you respect DiMaggio’s brilliance even more. The endless descriptions of his stunning ability on the ballfield are all the more believable precisely because Cramer is unflinching in drawing attention to his general faults as well. This is not the work of a devoted fan gushing uncontrollably about the greatness of the Yankee Clipper; it is an evocative yet balanced portrait of a truly great ballplayer and a man whose fame, even as a sixty-two year old, was all-consuming. As Cramer puts it: “He hadn’t just climbed back to the top of the pile. There was the pile. And then there was Joe. It was beyond fame, to veneration”.

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