YANKEE DAYS

JOE DIMAGGIO, from the perspective of those who perhaps knew him best... his teammates and his opponents

"Joe was a hero to his own teammates," said Toot's Shor, Joe's good friend and owner of a high scale New York Restaurant where Joe often dined.

The way Joe DiMaggio played, trying to perfect every aspect of his game, was the way he lived his life, both on and off the field. Everything was done with a distinctive purpose in mind. He strove for personal excellency and that quest did not go unnoticed by those who played with and against him. Yet, he was a reserved man, never really fitting in as "one of the guys". Everyone who knew him refers to him as "getting along 'fine' with others."

TOMMY HENRICH-Yankee right fielder-"I got to the Yankees and I saw DiMagio play a few games and I realized in a hurry this was the greatest ballplayer I ever saw in my life, the greatest ballplayer any of us ever saw... But Joe was kind of a cold guy, everybody knew that."

CHARLIE KELLER-Yankee left fielder for ten years-"When I came to the Yankees, I think everyone recognized that Joe was already the best player in the game. But the relationship with Joe and the other guys wasn't close. I couldn't say that. But he was a solid guy, and if anybody needed help or advice or anthing like that, Joe was there."

PETE SHEEHY-Yankee clubhouse manager-"I can describe Joe in one word: class. He was the most perfect ballplayer I ever saw, but, he was a shy fellow. I'll tell you something else though. When Joe DiMaggio walks into the clubhouse, the lights flicker. He's the star."

PHIL RIZZUTO-Yankee shortstop-"Joe was the team leader but he never said much. Players just watched what he did and tried to imitate him. Everybody gravitated to him, everybody wanted to be like him."

EDDIE LOPAT-Yankee pitcher-"Joe was the loneliest man I ever knew. He couldn't even eat a meal in a hotel restaurant, the fans just wouldn't let him. He led the league in room service."

ALLIE REYNOLDS-Yankee pitcher-"One thing about Joe that really nobody understands. I don't think I knew it then either. He gave a thousand percent every game, day in and day out, for a lot of years. The public paid good money and expected a spectacular performance out of him every day. That's impossible."

JERRY COLEMAN -Yankee second baseman-"Nothing made Joe happier than to do well in a big series and help the club win. He was a winner in the finest sense of the word. He was simply the greatest ball player I ever saw and it's not easy for a man to carry that burden. Joe carried it with class and dignity."

RALPH HOUK-Yankee bullpen catcher-"Without a doubt, Joe was one of the greatest leaders in the history of baseball. 'The only thing you can really say about Joe now is the same as we all said then: He just has a hell of a lot of greatness in him.'"

HANK GREENBERG-Detroit Tiger's slugger-"Joe was absolutely fearless, he played in an unintimidable manner. I guess I know Joe almost forty years now. We've played hundreds of games against each other. I've talked to him hundreds of times at banquets and at Shor's and places like that. In a way though, Iguess I really don't know him. I don't know if anybody knows Joe DiMaggio."

Thus, Joe DiMaggio was the hero of his teammates and had the utmost respect of his opponents. He was the man the baseball community looked to as the pinnacle of their collective greatness. But he was not "one of them." He was the "star" and with that stardom came a lonely existence, an aloofness that Joe embodied. Just like he knew what the American public expected of him, he also knew what his teammates expected from him. They thought he was the greatest, but he felt the need to prove that to them and to himself every single day. An old proverb claims that "it is often lonely at the top." Joe permanently etched himself atop the rest, but then had to endure the aches of his lofty perch as well. Everyone says Joe DiMaggio was a reserved, quiet, stoic man, a great leader who lead not by his mouth but by his example. He was a man so confident in himself and his abilities, and that confidence filtered down to all who knew him. But, as Hank Greenberg said, "When it came down to it, nobody really knew DiMaggio." That was it, that was part of his mystique, part of America's fascination with an unfamiliar celebrity. Everyone wanted to be like Joe DiMaggio, everyone wanted to know what he was all about. But few ever did... Yet, he remainsan American Icon

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

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