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The DiMaggios

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
December 12, 2022 3:03 am

The DiMaggios

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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December 12, 2022 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Tom Clavin shares some great stories of Joltin' Joe, Dom, and Vince from his book, The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream.

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Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. This is our American stories and we tell stories about everything here on the show. One of our favorite subject is the subject of sports. More than 350 sets of brothers have played in the major leagues since the 1870s and we're talking about baseball. But few have had the skill, the charisma or the success of the DiMaggio brothers.

Joltin Joe, Dom and Vince. Here to tell the story is the four-time New York Times bestseller author, Tom Clavin. He'll be sharing stories from his book, The DiMaggio's. Three brothers, their passion for baseball and their pursuit of the American dream.

Here's Clavin. The DiMaggio's is about family. That's the reason why I wrote the book.

It's dedicated to my own family. I had actually turned down the opportunity to write the DiMaggio's twice. I was not interested. I thought that Richard Ben Cramer had done the book on the DiMaggio's because of his biography of Joe, DiMaggio and a Hero's Life. I'm not a big fan of that book but I figured it would be pretty thorough and what else could I do? The third time that my agent suggested that I do a book on the DiMaggio's, all three brothers, I agreed to look into it.

Mostly just so I could get him off my back and he could stop suggesting that. And I started to do some research. I mean, like most people, I maybe didn't even know there were two other DiMaggio brothers or I knew that there was Dominic in Boston. But I didn't know about Vince at all. And it is kind of remarkable that you had three brothers playing at the same time.

Not unheard of. I mean, we know about the Alou brothers, for example, and we had other brothers who played at the same time. With the DiMaggio's, my first stop was after doing some initial researches. I made an appointment with Dominic DiMaggio Jr. and went up to see him. He had taken over his father's factory manufacturing business in the Boston area. And I went up to see him and spent the day with him talking about his father.

And I came away realizing that, and many writers would not want to say something like this, my agent was right. There was a terrific story here and it went way beyond Joe DiMaggio, which I was very glad for. Because even though I was born and raised a Yankees fan, my father's favorite player was Joe DiMaggio. Again, a Joe DiMaggio biography didn't interest me.

So I wrote a book that really is from the viewpoint of family. Giuseppe and Rosalie coming over from Italy. They barely could speak English, becoming a fisherman in the San Francisco area, raising nine children. The last three of whom were Vincent DiMaggio, Joe DiMaggio, and the baby Dominic DiMaggio. And those are the three that became baseball players.

They weren't carbon copies of each other. They all three loved baseball. It's interesting that Giuseppe and Rosalie had had six children and then they had Vincent. And Vincent was passionate about baseball and he was talented. And the father Giuseppe forbade his children to play baseball. And so when Joe was a teenager, he couldn't play or he would have to play in secret. When Dominic was very young, he couldn't play or the mother would sometimes cover for them.

But Vincent was very blatant about it. He wanted to play baseball. That's what he wanted to do with his life. And when Giuseppe kept being opposite about it, what Vincent did is he ran away.

Some kids run away and join the circus. Vincent ran away to join a baseball team. And he started playing in leagues up and down California, up and down the West Coast, into Oregon and Washington. Eventually made it to the Pacific Coast League, which was almost a major league caliber.

One of the enjoyments for me of writing the book The DiMaggio's was that all three brothers played first in the Pacific Coast League before going on to the major leagues. Anyway, Vincent went off to play baseball and he was gone for about two years. And he came back to the family home in the San Francisco area. And his father basically had his arms crossed and said, so you come back, you probably have no money and you've been a big failure. And now you're ready to be a fisherman just like your father, just like your brothers.

Well, two of the brothers anyway. And instead, Vincent reached into his pocket and put something like $6,000 cash on the table. He said, that's what I earned playing baseball. And Giuseppe took a look at that and he went to Joe and he said, what are you going to start playing baseball?

Well, Joe is ready, willing and able to jump right in. And he also started playing for local teams and for the Pacific Coast League. And he quickly outdistanced Vincent.

Now, we should really give credit to Vincent here because he had the courage to follow his dream. And it was because of that, the door got cracked open for Joe DiMaggio. If it had not been for Vincent, we might never know Joe DiMaggio, a Hall of Fame player, winner of nine World Series titles. So Joe started to play the Pacific Coast League and it was in the Pacific Coast League that he had a 61 game hitting streak. We know about the longer – the long hitting streak he had in Major League Baseball. But he had his longest one of his career was in the Pacific Coast League.

Meanwhile, Vincent does get called up to the Major Leagues. I believe his first team he played for was the Pittsburgh Pirates. He eventually played for the Philadelphia Phillies. But it was with the Pirates that he had a couple of all-star seasons. He was a very good defensive outfielder, probably during his years in the National League, the best center fielder in the National League. And he was a pretty decent hitter and he made the all-star team in a couple of years. Joe came up with the Yankees in 1936, was his rookie season. And he and DiMaggio were on great Yankee teams that won the pennant in 36, 37, 38, 39. You know, four straight pennants, four straight World Series as it turned out too. So Joe right away got used to winning and he was an all-star every year. And then what about Dominic DiMaggio, the youngest one? He was also nicknamed the professor.

He had these thick glasses. Nobody thought of him as a baseball player. He had to really go against a lot of stereotypes to eventually work his way through the Pacific Coast League. And then into Major League Baseball, he was signed by the – the Yankees had a chance to sign him and they passed.

I didn't think he was, you know, anything like his brother. And he was not Joe DiMaggio, but he was Dominic DiMaggio and he was a darn good ball player. And I happen to think should have been given more consideration for the Hall of Fame. But he was taken by the Boston Red Sox and he had nine all-star seasons.

He played 13 seasons, played from about 1940 to 53, 52 I think. And he made the all-star team nine – seven times, excuse me. Joe had made the all-star team 13 times and Vincent twice. So he had the three brothers. Between the three of them made 22 all-star teams.

That's a remarkable level of achievement for any family. And their careers took different paths. Now, in Vincent's case, by the time World War II ended, he was done with baseball. He still played. He just kept playing in less accomplished and smaller leagues. And eventually ended up back on the West Coast. And he had a troubled post-baseball career.

Alcoholism, having a hard time holding a job. So he's also kind of like a story of the American dream, like the DiMaggio family was. That his dream was to play baseball and he accomplished it. It was outside of baseball that he had trouble dealing with life. Joe, as we know, was a great leader of the Yankees. He did miss three seasons because of World War II. I discuss in the book some of the controversy about that because he had to be sort of dragged, kicking and screaming into the military service.

But here's a guy who was about to make $100,000 and studies making $240 a month being in the Army. When he got out of the service, when World War II ended, the Yankees again won the pennant in 47, 49, 50, 51. Joe with diminishing skills. And then he retired after the 51 season. By this time, Mickey Mantle was on the Yankees and a new era began for the Yankees. Joe had a pretty famous post-baseball career. He was always introduced as the greatest living ballplayer, much to the detriment and sort of amusement of Ted Williams. When you look at their respective statistics, Ted Williams far outdistanced Joe DiMaggio. He just didn't have nine World Series titles. And you're listening to Tom Clavin and he's sharing stories from his book, The DiMaggio's Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball and Their Pursuit of the American Dream.

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There's a better way to fly private. And we continue with the story of the DiMaggio brothers here on Our American Stories. Let's return to Tom Clavin. Joe and Dominic were very close brothers. They really loved each other. They were also very fierce competitors, and it didn't help that they were both considered the best set of failures in the American League. In the case of how they loved each other, I think one example is the 1941 season. It also shows that Ted Williams cared so much for Dominic and for Joe, too, even though they were very much rivals. But in the 1941 season, Joe was doing his 56-game hitting streak. And out in the outfield, when they were at Fenway Park, you had Ted Williams in left and Dominic in center.

And usually, in those days, games were played in the daytime, and it was hard for finding out what was going on in the game that was being played at the exact same time. So Ted basically bribed the scorekeeper, who was behind the green wall in Fenway Park, to listen to the radio or some kind of way to get information from the New York game. And whenever Joe got a hit, he would yell it out to Ted, who in turn would yell it over to Dominic in center field. And Dominic paid attention very fiercely to every moment that he could get his hands on of the Joe DiMaggio hitting streak.

I think one way that they were competitors is that—one illustration of this—in 1948, the Yankees, the Indians, and the Red Sox were all competing for the American League pennant. The Red Sox had won it in 46, the Yankees had won it in 47, and now you had these upstart Cleveland Indians. And as it happened, Dominic had been dating a woman named Emily, and they had made plans to marry. And they planned to get married in October 1948. And Joe DiMaggio calls his mother, and his mother is expressing some concern that what happens if the Red Sox win the pennant, and Dominic won't be able to get married when he's supposed to. And Joe says, don't worry, Mom, I'll personally take care of it and make sure Dominic's available for his wedding. And sure enough, on the last weekend of the season, Joe demolishes the Red Sox, and the Cleveland Indians win the pennant, and Dominic is sent home in time to get married with, of course, Joe as his best man. I think another good example of their competitiveness is that in 1949, Dominic had a hitting streak of his own going on. I mean, he ended up, of all the people, in all of baseball, Joe's own brother is the one coming the closest to his 56-game hitting streak. And it's up to 37 games, so Dominic only has another 19 games to go.

He'll at least tie his brother. And they're actually, the Yankees are playing the Red Sox of all places, of all teams. And Dominic is 0 for 3, and he gets up again.

It's going to be his last, unless there's an amazing comeback, there's going to be his last at-bat of the game. And he sends a screamer to the left-centerfield gap. And in a brilliant play, who chases it down but Joe DiMaggio robbing his brother of a base hit and breaking his brother's 37-game hitting streak. They used to keep score, too.

I should mention this. How many times one robbed a hit from the other, and by the end of their careers, Dominic actually, by an easy margin, had outscored his brother Joe and who stole a hit from the other one by their play in centerfield. So they loved each other very much, and they did.

It was a lifelong thing. The biggest claim to fame for Joe after his career as a baseball player was marrying Marilyn Monroe. That marriage lasted only nine months, and there's, I think, information in my book about the Joe-Marilyn relationship that you won't find other places. And a big reason for that is because I had access to members of the DiMaggio family. Quite a few of them did not participate in the Richard Ben Cramer Joe DiMaggio biography, I think because they got a sense from him that it was going to be rather critical.

My book is not pro DiMaggio, anti DiMaggio. It's the story about the family. Even to the point where Dominic and Emily, his wife, they really liked Marilyn Monroe. They thought she was a wonderful girl. They thought she and Joe were wrong for each other, but they could see that they were in love, and they were fully supportive of Joe getting married to Marilyn if that's what he wanted. Now, we know that the marriage lasted only nine months, I think, in 1954, and they broke up and went their separate ways. But apparently they still had a strong attraction to each other because what most people don't know, and I learned this from Emily DiMaggio, who again is the only one of that generation still alive, she's in her 90s now, that Marilyn and Joe used to have these secret rendezvous up at Dominic and Emily's place up in the Boston area in Massachusetts.

This was in the 1950s. And every so often, somebody from the press would wonder, was that a DiMaggio sighting, and they would stake out the Dominic-Emily house in the Boston area. So sometimes they would have to, Dominic would get into, disguised as Joe, would get into Joe's car and drive it around a little while.

Meanwhile, Emily would get a cab for Joe and Marilyn to take them to the train stations so they could head back to New York. That went on until Marilyn met Arthur Miller, and then all the hanky-panky with Joe ended, as far as we know. So Joe had already a failed marriage, and as his life went on, he became more and more disenchanted with his fame and seen with life in general. He had a very difficult relationship with his only child, Joe DiMaggio Jr. You can imagine what that was like for him being Joe DiMaggio Jr. and always being compared to his father. He tried and did not become a baseball player.

He did join the Marine Corps. But he also drifted a lot. He was more like his brother Vince, couldn't quite get traction on the rest of his life. And when Joe died, it was national headlines all over the place, of course, because he was an icon.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? He was in songs. He was lionized in the press.

He always got good press, even though in a lot of ways he couldn't stand the press. But what about Dominic? Now, in the case of Dominic DiMaggio, I believe it's fair for me to say that I did not start this book with the idea that he would become really more the central character or coming out of the book as my sort of hero. But what happened was, I think, is I got to know Dominic from talking to his children, and thankfully his widow was still alive. She was 90-ish.

But I was able to visit with her several times, have many conversations with her. She was the keeper of the DiMaggio family history. She was the only one of the nine DiMaggio children and their spouses.

She was the only one of that generation still alive. She had married Dominic in 1948, so she was there while Dominic was still at the prime of his career. Dominic joined the Red Sox in 1940.

He also missed three seasons because he was in the Navy. And after World War II, he came back and he was just getting into his prime, unlike his brothers Joe and Vincent, who were starting to get past their prime after the war. He was just getting into his prime as a ball player.

I mean, the Red Sox had great teams in the mid to late 40s. You had Dominic DiMaggio, who was considered a better center fielder than his brother. He was not a power hitter like his brother.

He was usually bagging the first or second spot, followed by people like Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr, Vern Stevens, Jimmy Fox. There were a lot of really good Red Sox players alongside Dominic. Dominic, right from the beginning, after his marriage, emphasized family. That was what was most important to him. He loved baseball. But he always made sure that after every game, he came home and came home to his family. He and his wife had three children.

Dominic and Peter were the boys, and Emily Jr. was the girl. And when it was time for him, when the writing was on the wall and his career was winding down, he walked away. He bought a manufacturing company and became an extremely successful businessman. And to me, that's an important part of the book, too, is the post-baseball career of Dominic DiMaggio, because he knew he was always going to be in the shadow of his brother as a ball player, but he was not in the shadow of his brother as a man or as a family man, as a husband or a father.

He became quite wealthy. He and his wife were very, very involved in charities, philanthropic work in the Boston area. He remained a legendary figure in Boston, and he lived until he was, I believe, 92 when Dominic died, surrounded by family, and it's no coincidence that the very last word of the book is family. That's what the book, to me, was about, the DiMaggios. It was, you know, the subtitle is Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream. I think it sums it up, the subtitle, because it was the family's pursuit of the American dream.

It was the passion of those three brothers for baseball, and it was their love and sometimes disturbing relationship with each other. Joe being the superhero, Vincent being viewed in a lot of ways as a failure, but Dominic not the hall of favor, though I think he should have gotten more consideration, but probably most successful as a human being than the brothers, because he had this long, enduring marriage of well over 60 years with his wife, the three children. His son takes over the manufacturing company. His daughter becomes a writer, an accomplished person. Peter, his other son, becomes an accomplished person. And so I just found myself, as I was writing the book, more and more gravitating towards Dominic's story.

And I think that if people want, even if they're not baseball fans, I think that they would enjoy the book, because it's really a story about the American dream, and it's a story about family. And great job, as always, to Greg Hengler for bringing us this story. And a special thanks to Tom Clavin. By the way, get his book, The DiMaggio's. Three brothers, their passion for baseball and their pursuit of the American dream.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-12 04:47:14 / 2022-12-12 04:57:27 / 10

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