The Greatest Living Baseball Player

Joe DiMaggio was voted The Greatest Living Baseball Player in 1969 by baseball journalists during baseball’s centennial celebration. He had been retired for 18 years. Since that time there were major superstars emerging in the game, Clemente, Mays, Mantle, Aaron. So why DiMaggio? Ted Williams said simply that he was the greatest he ever saw and the most graceful.


I have just finished his biography by Ben Cramer. (Pulitzer Prize guy)


I was enthralled from almost the first page to life’s end, for several reasons.

Despite having worked for the New York Times, Cramer knows baseball, understands what makes it click, the magic and the drama.  


I knew very little about Joe and never saw him play. So reading about the way he mastered the game instantly, never really having any instruction until his late teens was incredible to me. His fierce determination to be the best was also something I enjoyed. The description of how life was in America during the 30’s and 40’s was fun. We sometimes forget that travel was very different before jets and interstates. A riveting narration of the greatest streak in baseball’s history in 1941 (56 game hitting streak) was cool. He was every Italians hero, including the mob who he knew pretty well.


Most interesting though was how Joe lived his life. After he retired from baseball he never really had a job. His work was being Joe. He protected his image/reputation and made a fortune on it; signing memorabilia and public appearances. He knew everyone and everyone idolized him. He drew more applause than Presidents and movie stars. Marrying Marilyn Monroe sealed the deal. Even if it didn’t work, it elevated him above mortal men, he was godlike.


Henry Kissinger met him through a podiatrist who knew everyone in New York and they became chums. Henry is a huge NYY fan and watched Jolting Joe from the bleachers in 38 & 39. He says “if you told me then I would go on in life to be Secretary of State and friends with the Yankee Clipper I would have said that the later was unlikely.” Joe introduced Kissinger at a gala by saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, The greatest living Secretary of State……..”


And lastly I liked Joe’s story because he snubbed Clinton while President opting instead to chat with Paul Simon “Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio……….?”


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