Joe DiMaggio looks back over a career of accomplishments. Yet, he does not forget where he came from, nor do his fans.

It is his storied past that intrigues so many. His Italian heritage that all immigrants identify with and try to emmulate. Joe DiMaggio personifies the validity of that ever elusive "American Dream" come true. His success at breaking into the world of baseball, a poor, uneducated son of an immigrant fisherman during the height of the depression is unbelievable to many, but, at the same time, a tangible experience for Americans everywhere in similar predicaments to look to for guidance.

The fact that he made it to the major leageus was enough to make him the hero of the masses. Forget his incredible statistics, his "clipper-like" grace, his dignified pursuit of excellence on and off the field. Joe DiMaggio was a hero for those who so desperately wanted to believe in the beauty of the American Dream.

There is a legend that claims Joe DiMaggio's father fought hard to keep his sons from playing baseball. He wanted his boys to get a good education and to make something of themselves. According to Tom DiMaggio, Joe's older brother, "He wanted us to make a good, honest living, so we could get away from the stuggle and the poverty we had as kids."

Frank Venezia, Joe's childhood friend, remembers the great DiMaggio fondly. "Joe had a keen mind. He would have been good at anything he did. He just wasn't interested in school. I think part of it was he was afraid to talk in class. That probably came from his home. His parents were hermits. They didn't come out of the house much. Joe's parents only spoke Italian. But, I can't really tell you if Joe spoke Italian to his parents or what they spoke to him. Nobody around there could tell you, nobody ever got invited inside their house (Allen 24)."

But a close friendship formed. Frank understood and respected Joe's differences and was content to be friends with the neighborhood hero. They played in the San Fransisco sandlots together, delivered newspapers after school together, and dreamt about somebday being Major Leaguers together.

"We went to grammar school and junior high school in our own neighborhood with kids like us." "But high school was different. Not many sons of fishermen there," Venezia recalls. In the high school located away from Joe and Frank's neighborhood, there were kids from better sections who were better dressed and seemed to adjust more easily to high school. DiMaggio just didn't fit in and his pride did not allow him to accept and admit to his different background. Instead, he focused on his love... baseball.

It was on the baseball field that Joe defined himself. Within the lines, it did not matter who your parents were, or what kind of clothing you wore. All that mattered was if you could hit, run, catch, and throw. And Joe could do that better than anyone.

In 1931, during the height of the Depression, Joe DiMaggio dropped out of high school. With little education and no skills, he worked as a laborer on the docks. He crated oranges, he worked in a cannery, he delivered groceries, and he helped load trucks. But as he worked, he came to realize that baseball was the only thing he liked to do, the one thing he was good at. He also discovered that people could actually make a living at it. (Allen, 26).

His brothers Tom and Vince were both playing for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, making a hundred dollars a month.
"I was a cocky kid," DiMaggio recalled. "I figured if (my brothers) could get paid for playing baseball, I could get paid too."

The rest is history... a thrilling, fairy-tale like-history that remains to be told by the text and pictures of this project. But Joe DiMaggio's "humble beginnings" mustn't go overlooked or be overshadowed by the more astounding events of his life, for they are his roots, his history, and a past that made him the man he became.

Humble Beginnings| Becoming a Yankee| The Streak| Marilyn Monroe| Yankee Days| Being Joe DiMaggio| The Toast of the Town| The End of an Era| Has Joe D. gone anywhere?| The last inning

  • FRONT PAGE
  • SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING