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Road trip

West Side Highway renamed Joe DiMaggio Highway

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Posted: Sunday April 25, 1999 06:04 PM

  Yankees owner George Steinbrenner says naming West Side Highway after DiMaggio has nothing to do with his desire to move the team to that area in the future. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- The city honored one of its most elegant, beloved sports heroes Sunday by putting his name on a dilapidated highway known for potholes and traffic jams.

The West Side Highway became the Joe DiMaggio Highway in a ceremony attended by the granddaughters of the late New York Yankees' star, as well as team owner George Steinbrenner and former teammate and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto.

"Every time you come up and down here, it's going to bring back memories," said Rizzuto, a Hall of Fame shortstop who played with DiMaggio in the 1940s and '50s. "I know Joe is going to be looking down at the Yankees and he's going to be really proud."

DiMaggio, who guarded his privacy, had agreed with plans to place his name on the highway, since it would not replace anyone already honored.

"It warmed him to know it was going to happen," said granddaughter Kathie Stein. "It's a great honor."

Stein flew in for the ceremony from California with another of DiMaggio's granddaughters, Paula Hamra.

The state Legislature voted unanimously to rename the highway, which runs north-south in Manhattan alongside the Hudson River, between Battery Place and West 72nd Street.

The name change is ceremonial, meaning signs and maps will still identify the road as the West Side Highway, which has been under reconstruction for much of the last two decades and is the scene of daily traffic backups.

Additional signs will be erected informing motorists that the stretch of the road had been named in honor of DiMaggio.

Gov. George Pataki had suggested that the Major Deegan Expressway, which runs by Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, be renamed for DiMaggio instead. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the governor was invited to Sunday's event but had a conflict and could not attend.

Two years ago, the city renamed the Interboro Parkway for Jackie Robinson, who broke the major league racial barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Steinbrenner and Giuliani want to build a new Yankee Stadium on the West Side of Manhattan close to the highway's route, but many New Yorkers do not want it moved from the Bronx.

Asked if renaming the highway was related to the proposal, Steinbrenner said: "We're not here to answer that. ... You're reading something into it."

"There's really no connection between the two things," said Giuliani.

A passerby wasn't so sure.

"I'm very skeptical. It sounds more like a ploy to move the Yankees," said Frank Schafer, who was walking along the road as workers pulled down the prototype of a green-and-white Joe DiMaggio Highway sign that had been unveiled for the ceremony.

The renaming was one of several events this weekend to honor DiMaggio, who died March 8 at 84. On Friday, a memorial service was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. On Sunday, a monument of the Hall of Famer was unveiled at Yankee Stadium.

 
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