Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio is born in Martinez, California on November 25, 1914 to a fisherman father who sails the family cross the bay when Joe is one, docking at Fisherman’s Wharf and crowding the family into a flat on Taylor Street.
“I was born in Martinez, but my earliest recollection was of the smell of fish at Fisherman’s Wharf, where I was brought up, DiMaggio writes in his autobiography, Lucky to Be a Yankee.
“Our main support was a fishing boat, with which my father went crabbing. If you didn’t help in the fishing, you had to help in cleaning the boat.
“Baseball didn’t have much appeal to me as a kid, but it was better than helping Pop when he was fishing, or helping clean the boat. I was always giving him excuses, principally that I had a weak stomach, but he insisted I was ‘lagnuso’ (lazy) and to tell you the truth, I don’t know which he thought was the greater disgrace to the family, that a DiMaggio should be lazy or that a DiMaggio should have a weak stomach.”
Despite his West Coast roots, DiMaggio plays his entire 13-year major league baseball career as a center fielder with the New York Yankees. He’s named the league’s most valuable player three times, helps the Yankees win nine World Series – four during his first four years — and sets a record for 56 hits in 56 consecutive games that remains unbroken.
The eighth of nine children born to Italian immigrants, DiMaggio gets his first break in baseball from his older brother Vince, a center fielder with the San Francisco Seals. When the team’s shortstop is injured, Vince recommends his kid brother.
In his first season with the Seals in 1933, DiMaggio puts together a 61-game hitting streak. Bought by the Yankees, DiMaggio says, “I would like to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.” He makes his debut as one of the “Bronx Bombers” on May 3, 1936.
He buys a two-story house at 2150 Beach St. in San Francisco’s Marina District for $14,600.
In 1939, DiMaggio is nicknamed the “Yankee Clipper” by the Yankee’s stadium announcer who likens DiMaggio’s speed and range in the outfield to a then-new airliner of the same name.
“The “Streak,” as his string of consecutive hits is called, lasts from May 15 to July 17, 1941, when DiMaggio goes 0 for 3. He spends three of his peak playing years in the U.S. Army during World War II and then returns to the Yankees in 1946. Dogged by injury, DiMaggio hangs up his cleats after the 1951 season.
His number 5 is retired in 1952 — three years before he is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. DiMaggio marries Marilyn Monroe in San Francisco in January 1954, but she files for divorce 237 days later. DiMaggio never marries again and never speaks about Monroe publicly for the remainder of his life, which ends in 1999. According to his lawyer, Morris Engelberg, DiMaggio’s last words are: “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
“A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.” –Joe DiMaggio