Joe DiMaggio or the Yankee Clipper or Joltin’ Joe, may be the most worshipped baseball player of all times after Babe Ruth. Known for his 56 game hitting streak in 1941, the year that Ted Williams was the last man to hit .400, and known for his marriage with Marilyn Monroe. But Joe had a side that many fans do not know about as it is hardly written about.
Joe Dimaggio was born as Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio on November 25, 1914, in Martinez, California. His father was a fisherman who moved from Italy to California in 1898. His father liked him to follow in his footsteps to become a fisherman too, but Joe never had the intention to become a fisherman. Joe was the eighth child and had five brothers of which two were gifted baseball players as well. Dom DiMaggio played his entire career for the Boston Red Sox and Vince DiMaggio played for the Boston Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Giants. They were the only set of brothers that appeared in an All Star Game.
After Vince left the family to become a professional baseball player with the local San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, Joe followed swiftly. Joe has built a reputation in sandlot ball and played in a local league for a team sponsored by an olive-oil distributor called Rossi, receiving two baseballs and $16 worth of merchandise for leading his team to a league championship. Eventually Vince persuaded the Seals to sign his brother, who joined the team as their shortstop as their regular shortstop got injured near the end of the 1932 season. Apparently the Seals were impressed with what they saw because Joe clinched a roster spot in 1933. After three spectacular seasons with the Seals, in which he hit .340, .341 and .398, the Seals sold his contract to the Yankees for $25,000 and five players.
Not bothered by jitters, Joe hit a very respectable .323 and hit 29 homeruns in his rookie season and helped the Yankees to a World Series title in 1936. In the next three seasons the Yankees would wrap up three more World Series titles, so Joe would become the only player who won a World Series ring in his first four MLB seasons. Next to being a tremendous hitter, DiMaggio was a very skilled outfielder and a very good baserunner. Yogi Berra once said “He never did anything wrong on the field. I’d never seen him dive for a ball, everything was a chest-high catch, and he never walked off the field.”
During World War II to he enlisted to join the army and served for three years as a physical training instructor. Compared to Ted Williams, who was a fighter pilot during World War II, this job was not dangerous at all.
After returning to daily life in 1946, he had problems finding his groove again in baseball. In the first months of the 1946 season he struggled mightily.
Eventually, after three consecutive World Series wins in 1949, 1950 and 1951, he decided to hang up his spikes due to a severe pain in his heel that aggravated as he grew older.
“I was full of aches and pains and it had become a chore for me to play,” he said. “When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game.”
During his playing career, he married actress Dorothy Arnold in 1939. She gave birth to a son, Joe III. After five years of marriage, they divorced. After a long time, Joe met Norma Jean Baker, also known as Marilyn Monroe. After an eighteen month courtship, the two married. But the marriage didn’t last any longer than 286 days. After they broke up, they kept seeing each other after he marriage with playwright Arthur Miller and when Marilyn died because of an overdose, he had flowers delivered on her grave three times a week for 20 years.
This is the story that we all know about him. But there is another, more darker side, that many fans do not know. In his point of view, women needed to cook, to clean and run errands and be his sex partner at times he wasn’t in bed with other women. Because of this point of view, the marriage between him and Dorothy Arnold ended after five years.
When he married Marilyn Monroe, his point of view on women had not changed. As a player he loved to stay in the center of the attention, but after his retirement he wanted to be left alone. He never liked that his wife was a star of her own and sought the attention. He was a terrible jealous person who disliked it when she had to kiss another man in a movie. He did not want her to play in movies that exploited her sexually. He wanted to have clauses in her contracts to that effect. Because of that he demanded an active part in choosing her roles.
If that was the worst, perhaps the marriage between him and Marilyn would have lasted longer. But next to being very jealous he abused her mentally. He kept her up at night, yelled at her, shouted and wanted her to turn away from acting to start a family. According to Marilyn, Joe was a terrible boring person, who drank, chain smoked and only watched TV. Because of the abuse, Marilyn started to take sedatives and became addicted. She also started drinking. This resulted in being late at the movie sets, driving directors crazy. Eventually she started to forget her lines.
Even after their divorce, he kept stalking her and intimidated her. He even tried to break into an apartment of which he thought it was hers.
Next to being very paranoid, DiMaggio was a very vengeful person. He hated Bill Clinton, the Kennedy’s and Frank Sinatra. On the night that Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s “unbreakable” record of 2,130 games, he refused to sit next to Bill Clinton at Camden Yards and to shake his hand. When Joe was in the final days of his life when a tumor was surgically removed from his lung, he refused to speak to President Clinton, who wanted to wish him well. After Marilyn Monroe’s death, he blamed three people for it: Frank Sinatra, who introduced Marilyn to the other two that he blamed for it: John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy.
Next to being very vengeful, Joe was also very self-centered. His brother Dom once wrote a book about the 1941 season with the Red Sox; the season in which Ted Williams hit .406, being the last MLB player to hit .400 or more. Dom used a photograph of Joe on the cover. Joe felt that Dom used his photo for his own (Dom’s) financial gain. The story goes that in 1994, DiMaggio and his friend, Morris Engelberg went to Hernando, Florida, together for the opening of a museum in honor of Ted Williams. Dom DiMaggio was there as well, since he had been a teammate of Williams. But when Joe saw him initially in the Holiday Inn, he didn’t even bother to say hello. As they walked back to their rooms, Engelberg asked “Wasn’t that your brother?” “So what,” DiMaggio. Said.
Vanity was also a character trait of DiMaggio. A quote of his friend and lawyer Morris Engelberg says it all: “He could never forgive a perceived slight, yet he came to the wedding of my daughter without a gift, as if his mere presence were gift enough. A vain and demanding man, he would take 10 minutes to knot and reknot his tie.”
Another proof of his vanity was on Old Timers Day in 1995 when DiMaggio got more applause than Mickey Mantle, who was already in the final days of his life and only appeared in a videotaped message that was shown on the jumbotron scoreboard in Yankee Stadium. After that message he was all smiles and his mood brightened.
DiMaggio hated memorabilia shows, but as he could earn some extra money by signing baseball related items, he never hesitated. During a signing session in Atlantic City for example, he made an estimated $120,000. In the early 1990s, DiMaggio signed a deal with a New Jersey–based memorabilia company called the Score Board. The company paid him between $7 million and $9 million over a two-and-a-half-year period to sign 1,000 baseballs and 1,000 photographs a month. That meant two days of signing a month for DiMaggio at Engelberg’s law office. This makes clear that money was his driving force. And still while he got this much money, he feasted on getting things for nothing because of his fame.
For many fans including myself, it must have been a big surprise to read those things. To maintain his image, these stories were kept out of the media for years and we all learned about his image of being the perfect son in law and the civilized baseball player.