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Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil

Jerome Charyn
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Joe DiMaggio
    Book Description:

    As the New York Yankees' star centerfielder from 1936 to 1951, Joe DiMaggio is enshrined in America's memory as the epitome in sports of grace, dignity, and that ineffable quality called "class." But his career after retirement, starting with his nine-month marriage to Marilyn Monroe, was far less auspicious. Writers like Gay Talese and Richard Ben Cramer have painted the private DiMaggio as cruel or self-centered. Now, Jerome Charyn restores the image of this American icon, looking at DiMaggio's life in a more sympathetic light.

    DiMaggio was a man of extremes, superbly talented on the field but privately insecure, passive, and dysfunctional. He never understood that for Monroe, on her own complex and tragic journey, marriage was a career move; he remained passionately committed to her throughout his life. He allowed himself to be turned into a sports memorabilia money machine. In the end, unable to define any role for himself other than "Greatest Living Ballplayer," he became trapped in "a horrible kind of minutia." But where others have seen little that was human behind that minutia, Charyn inJoe DiMaggiopresents the tragedy of one of American sports' greatest figures.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17266-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chronology
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Prologue: Pinocchio in Pinstripes
    (pp. 1-14)

    He was the nonpareil, missed from the moment he retired in 1951. “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” asked Paul Simon in 1967. “A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” Thus there was a lament for DiMaggio long before he died, in 1999. And when he lay ill in a hospital during the last days of his life, the flurry of reports about his condition could have been about a pontiff or a president, not a baseball player who toiled in the outfield at Yankee Stadium for thirteen years. DiMaggio seemed to override baseball and sports itself. He was...

  6. PART I The Player

    • ONE “Our National Exaggeration”
      (pp. 17-24)

      First there was Babe Ruth. No one man has ever altered a sport, changed it forever, the way Ruth did. Ruth didn’t invent the home run. He simply turned it into a lethal weapon. Baseball had once been a game of wits, where pitchers and fielders dueled among themselves, and a bunt single or a base on balls could be the difference between life and death. Like parsimonious squirrels, a team would guard and nurse a one-run lead that most often would win a game. There was a constant panorama of hit-and-run plays. The home run seldom figured in this...

    • TWO The Walloping Wop
      (pp. 25-38)

      It’s 1936, and he’s a star before he ever swings a bat at Yankee Stadium. It’s on account of the Babe, whose aura still clung to the playing field. According to Yankee outfielder George Selkirk, “We needed a leader after Ruth left. Gehrig wasn’t a leader. He was just a good old plowhorse.”¹

      Ruth’s disappearance from the Bronx seemed to signal the end of a dynasty and the Yankees’ grip on the American League. There was an emptiness, a terrible void, that no one could fill. It didn’t matter that the Giants had Carl Hubbell, the left-handed ace of the...

    • THREE Joltin’ Joe and the Ghost of Lou Gehrig
      (pp. 39-44)

      Lou Gehrig lay dying while the Jolter was in the midst of his streak. There were reports that the Iron Horse was so ill “he couldn’t lift a cigarette.” He died on June 2, the day the Jolter had two hits against the Indians and kept the streak alive at 19 games. On June 3, in Detroit, the Tigers and the Bombers paid a silent tribute to Gehrig. “DiMaggio stood alone, facing the flag with his head bowed.” He’d been fond of Gehrig, had often smoked cigarettes with him in the tunnel at Yankee Stadium—two silent men who never...

    • FOUR “C’mon, Joe, Talk to Me”
      (pp. 45-58)

      He returned to baseball in 1946 as if he had never been away. He hit the ball like a wizard during spring training. He was much more affable, willing to smile and tell stories. But it was a masquerade; perhaps he was frightened for the first time, unsure of his skills, of his place in a postwar world. It was as if his soul had begun to rot and he’d never get out of the burden of being Joe DiMaggio. The army years had ruined him in a way, kept him even more of a child. Williams could remain a...

    • FIVE The Wounded Warrior
      (pp. 59-70)

      It was sort of his twilight, but not quite. He couldn’t hurl rockets any more from center field to home plate. Even in his fanciful autobiography,Lucky to Be a Yankee, first published in 1947 (and revised in ’49 and ’57), he wrote that his throwing arm troubled him all through 1946. “In 1947, it got steadily worse and I found that I was good for about one throw a game and not even that all the time.” It’s hard to believe that the rest of the league was naïve enough never to stumble onto the truth that the Jolter...

  7. PART II The Demon Lover

    • SIX The Princess of Yankee Stadium
      (pp. 73-84)

      Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg hardly suffered when he retired from baseball after the 1947 season. He walked right out of the batter’s box and into his own kind of aristocracy. He’d already married an heiress, Caral Gimbel, whose father owned Gimbel’s department store; he would soon become general manager and part owner of the Cleveland Indians and then a successful stockbroker. He’d had a bit more education than DiMaggio and the Babe (he finished high school and started college), but that was not his real advantage: he was the first Jewish baseball star, which lent him an immediate cachet, and a...

    • SEVEN Mr. Marilyn Monroe
      (pp. 85-94)

      How can we explain what happened next? Marilyn captured him in the whirlwind of her persona—with all its porous, vulnerable masks—and he never quite recovered. There’s one little anecdote that’s repeated ineverybook about DiMaggio and Marilyn. I’ll steal it from Maury Allen’sWhere Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?We all know some little piece of the tale. The Jolter, always a practical man, was scheduled to leave on a baseball junket that January with Lefty O’Doul, his former manager on the San Francisco Seals who had remained a friend, and he decided to take his bride...

    • EIGHT “Bigger Than the Statue of Liberty”
      (pp. 95-112)

      He survived on will alone, morphed into a demon lover who fit himself somehow into the contours of Marilyn’s life. It wasn’t easy. He would stalk her when she moved to New York in 1955, wait in the alleys outside her apartment at the Waldorf, pound on her door, and suffer in silence when she announced to half the world that Arthur Miller was the only man she had ever loved. But his concentration wasn’t shot. The Jolter leapt onto a new center field, a much more difficult and dangerous terrain where he risked his own sanity, with few people...

    • NINE The Greatest Living Ballplayer
      (pp. 113-118)

      1962. After he buried Marilyn, the Jolter didn’t come out of his house in San Francisco for six weeks. He became a recluse, surly and unforgiving with family and friends. It was this recluse that Gay Talese wrote about in “The Silent Season of the Hero.” Talese revealed for the first time the man behind the DiMaggio myth—DiMaggio’s private life proved to be no life at all; the guy who had guarded his image for so long suddenly had little of an image to guard. But it shouldn’t have come as a revelation. That narrow man had always been there....

    • TEN The Biggest Fan of Them All
      (pp. 119-128)

      He loved to rail at Marilyn’s “enemies,” real or imagined. But there were very few chances in those last thirty-seven years of his life for the Big Guy to deliver a blow for Marilyn’s sake. He had no more Kennedys to revile after Jack and Bobby were killed. And he couldn’t worry about other phantoms. Either he was at some godforsaken kitchenware show for Mr. Coffee or accumulating caps and T-shirts and golf clubs from his celebrity tournaments until his sister Marie told him that their house on Beach Street in San Francisco would soon cave in, or cramming other...

  8. Finale: An Outfielder’s Sky
    (pp. 129-146)

    Richard Ben Cramer is convinced that DiMaggio was a disciple of Ty Cobb, one of the meanest players who ever lived. Cobb had moved to northern California after he retired from baseball in 1928 (with a lifetime batting average of .366), and kept an eye on Joe when he was with the San Francisco Seals. It was Cobb who helped Joe craft his first letter to the Yankees, who taught him to be a penny pincher and never pay for a meal. It was Cobb who told him to soak his bats in olive oil so that they would have...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 147-154)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 155-160)
  11. Index
    (pp. 161-170)