PROSPECT — Joe DiMaggio was idolized by millions of Yankee fans and Italian-Americans. The renowned Yankee Clipper holds of one of baseball’s most hallowed records — the 56-game hitting streak in 1941.
But in some respects, though, Joe DiMaggio comes out third best to his brothers, Dominic DiMaggio and Vince DiMaggio, both of whom also played Major League baseball with skill. Tom Clavin, author of the new book, “The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream,” shared many tales of the brothers DiMaggio before a crowd of 85 at the Prospect Senior Center May 29. The event was sponsored by the Prospect Library.
According to Clavin, Joe envied his kid brother because Dom lived a sound personal life and became a multi-millionaire after he concluded his outstanding career with the Boston Red Sox.
“Dom ended up taking care of his (eight) older siblings. He was married for 61 years, his three daughters all graduated from college, and he became a successful textile manufacturer who helped raise millions of dollars for the Jimmy Fund and other charities in the Boston area,” the author said.
Joe DiMaggio, of course, is an American icon, one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. A centerfielder with a career .325 batting average and 361 home runs, he led the Yankees to nine World Series championships and won three Most Valuable Player awards.
Off the field, he seemed to have it all — a marriage to Hollywood’s blonde bombshell, Marilyn Monroe, millions in earnings as a spokesman for Mr. Coffee and the Bowery Savings Bank, and, much later, through sales of his autograph and baseball memorabilia.
Dominic DiMaggio, four years younger than Joe, was a top-tier star in his own right, a seven-time American League All-Star centerfielder with the Red Sox (1940-42, 1946-53) and a lifetime .298 hitter. After World War II ended, he surpassed Joe DiMaggio as the league’s outstanding defensive centerfielder.
“I make the case in the book,” Clavin said. “If his name wasn’t DiMaggio, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.”
Vince DiMaggio, the oldest of the three baseball-playing brothers, had two passions: opera and baseball. It was he who defied his immigrant father, who saw baseball as a frivolous game, and went off to play in America’s pastime.
He had a solid career in the National League, primarily with the Pittsburgh Pirates; in 1941, he walloped 21 homers and drove in 100 runs. He appeared in two All-Star Games — hitting a home run and triple in the 1943 game at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.
Possessor of a powerful throwing arm, like his younger brothers, Vince DiMaggio led the league’s outfielders in assists no fewer than three times.
Far less successful financially than Joe DiMaggio and Dom DiMaggio, Vince DiMaggio was selling Fuller Brushes door-to-door when he was 70 years old. Yes, he was bitter.
“If I’d never opened my mouth” and told the San Francisco Seals about Joe, he said, Clavin told the audience, “I’d be remembered as the best DiMaggio.”
In their later years, Joe DiMaggio rarely saw his elder brother.
According to Clavin, Dominic DiMaggio attempted to help Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe reconcile during their rocky marriage.
“Joe and Marilyn used to rendezvous at Dom and Emily’s house after they divorced,” he said.
After Marilyn died in 1962, Joe lived the remainder of his life as a widower, one family member told Clavin.
The DiMaggios ($25.99) is published by ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.