Joe DiMaggio was a cultural icon.
He married Hollywood starlets Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Arnold and he was immortalized in Paul Simon’s hit song Mrs. Robinson; to a generation he was the face of Mister Coffee, and he was regarded as one of the greatest players who ever played the game.
He was an American hero.
Hall of Fame teammate Phil Rizzuto recalled: "There was an aura about him. He walked like no one else walked. He did things so easily. He was immaculate in everything he did. Kings of State wanted to meet him and be with him. He carried himself so well. He could fit in any place in the world.”
On the ball field Joe DiMaggio could do it all. He could hit for average and power and patrolled center field in Yankee Stadium so gracefully that he earned the nickname “The Yankee Clipper”, a reference to the great sailing ship.
Hall of Famer owner and manager Connie Mack called him “the best player that ever lived”, and longtime teammate Yogi Berra said: “I wish everybody had the drive he had. He never did anything wrong on the field. I'd never seen him dive for a ball, everything was a chest-high catch, and he never walked off the field.”
The son of a San Francisco fisherman, Joe was the eighth of nine children – and his brothers Vince and Dom were also Major League All-Stars. Of his on field accomplishments, perhaps none are more notable than his 56-game hitting streak in 1941. However, that streak was not the longest of his professional career. In 1933, as a member of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, DiMaggio put together a 61-game hitting streak.
By the 1970s, broadcasters and writers began simply to call him “Joe D.” – and because he was so ingrained in American culture, everyone knew who they were talking about. His rival Ted Williams said: “DiMaggio was the greatest all-around player I ever saw. His career cannot be summed up in numbers and awards. It might sound corny, but he had a profound and lasting impact on the country”.
His successor in center field at Yankee Stadium Mickey Mantle described how he viewed the Yankee Clipper: “Heroes are people who are all good with no bad in them. That's the way I always saw Joe DiMaggio. He was beyond question one of the greatest players of the century.”
DiMaggio was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955. He passed away on March 8, 1999.