“A ball player has to be kept hungry to become a big leaguer. That’s why no boy from a rich family has never made the major leagues.” (Joe DiMaggio)
“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio.”This famous lyric from the Simon and Garfunkel song , “Mrs Robinson”, suggested a major theme in our road trip excursion to his birthplace across San Francisco Bay to Martinez , California. Despite Joe’s legendary baseball fame and business prowess, I surprisingly would discover scant physical evidence of DiMaggio’s life story in this quaint, Bay Area town. It would thus become a major challenge of mine to “dig” more deeply into his storied life there.
My most essential stop for information would thus become the the local Martinez Historical Museum. Inquiring directly in the lobby with two, receptive representatives about my DiMaggio interest, I was disappointed that no current exhibits currently were on display. However, would soon hand me a thick file of memorabilia from DiMaggio’s entire life. I would proceed to examine each document in fine detail and subsequently follow up with Google research on noted special topics of interest. My research soon revealed a humble man whose flamboyant baseball legacy as a famous New York Yankee overshadowed his brusquely reserved nature that often led him to shun the limelight that he so deserved.
Consider the logic of the following scene that I later discovered online. One night in a supper club, a woman who had been drinking approached DiMaggio’s table. When he did not ask her to join him, she snapped: “All right, I guess I’m not Marilyn Monroe.” He ignored her remark, but when she repeated it, he replied, barely controlling his anger, “No – I wish you were, but you’re not” The tone of his voice softened her, and she asked, “Am I saying something wrong?” “You already have,” he said. “Now will you please leave me alone?”
I also learned from newspaper clippings that big plans were frequently “on the table” to celebrate the “Joltin Joe”legacy in Martinez. Yet little progress had been made to date there to finalize these ambitious plans. I pondered about feasible causes of this delay. Why would his family object to erecting a Joe DiMaggio Museum to celebrate his early life there? How did the town view the controversial religious scandal related to his marriage to Marilyn Monroe? Did shy Joe himself refuse to oblige the town in his lifetime to showcase his family roots there? What legal litigations were pending to prevent publicizing Joe’s life there? These provocative questions I believed were unanswered in the files I observed.
I would now think back to my own personal encounter with Joe over twenty years ago at a busy airport. I was standing in line, awaiting to board a commercial aircraft and observed Joe standing in line directly in front of me. Never bothering to acknowledge my obvious interest in complimenting him about his baseball greatness, he quietly boarded the aircraft with little notice. I thus imagined a similarly aloof reaction from him , upon hearing that Martinez planned to publicly promote his name there.
As I stood near the lot where Joe’s birthplace once stood, I imagined Joe’s humble beginning. He was in fact born as the son of a modest, Italian fisherman living in a simple dockside house within the once bustling fishing village of Granger’s Wharf. Here was where his “rags to riches”story had truly begun. It’s clearly due time that that this homegrown hero in America be recognized with a museum in his honor in the town that he was born.
For More Information:
Encyclopedia World Biography, http://www.notablebiographies.com
Allen, Maury. Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio? The Story of America’s Last Hero. New York: Dutton, 1975.
Cramer, Richard Ben. Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
Seidel, Michael. Streak: DiMaggio and the Summer of ’41. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988.
Testa, Maria. Becoming Joe DiMaggio. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2002.