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'An American icon'

DiMaggio honored at Yankee Stadium with monument

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Posted: Sunday April 25, 1999 03:59 PM

  Players and fans paid their respects as Joe DiMaggio took his rightful place beside the Yankee greats. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Paul Simon's haunting lyrics echoed through Yankee Stadium on Sunday, celebrating the memory of Joe DiMaggio as the team dedicated a monument to one of baseball's greatest players.

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
What's that you say Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away."

On a sun-splashed afternoon, a sellout Stadium crowd watched DiMaggio's former teammates -- Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, Hank Bauer, Jerry Coleman and Gil McDougald -- gather for the unveiling of the granite and bronze monument, only the fifth to be dedicated in the team's 97-year history. The others honor Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Miller Huggins.

All the players except Ford were in the starting lineup for Game 6 of the 1951 World Series -- DiMaggio's final game. Public address announcer Bob Sheppard recited the lineup on Sunday, just as he did on that day -- Oct. 10, 1951.

After an invocation by Cardinal John O'Connor, Rizzuto addressed the crowd. Then Simon, standing in center field, sang the song that was written for the movie "The Graduate" and became an anthem for the '60s.

When he sang the line, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" the crowd responded with one more cheer for the Yankee Clipper, who died March 8 at 84.

Highlights of DiMaggio's career were shown on the scoreboard, including clips of his final visit to Yankee Stadium, Sept. 27, 1998, when he was honored before the final game of last season.

Joining the ex-Yankees for the ceremony were DiMaggio's granddaughters, Paula and Kathy, and longtime friend and lawyer Morris Engelberg.

Coleman remembered DiMaggio as a solitary man and recalled being in awe of him when they became teammates.

"I was raised in San Francisco. I knew more about him than any player that lived," he said. "He was the god, the icon. He was it. He was baseball.

"My first spring training was '48. He was there. It was thrilling, the magnitude of the man. I didn't go up to him and say, `Hi, Joe, I'm so-and-so.' Billy Martin tried to cozy up to him. That lasted about a week."

But, Coleman said, DiMaggio was the ultimate teammate.

"Once, against Boston [Johnny] Pesky took Rizzuto out with a tough slide," he said. "The next inning, Joe led off with a hit and never stopped. He took out [Bobby] Doerr at second base. You'd see that and you'd say, `Hey, he's our guy.'"

Coleman said he saw DiMaggio make only one mistake.

"Once, he caught the second out of an inning and thought it was the third," he said. "He took two steps and then reacted. It was the only time I saw him do something wrong. He threw to the right base, though."

Bauer recalled playing center field in one game when Casey Stengel wanted to rest DiMaggio by playing him at first base. After a dozen or so putouts, DiMaggio told the manager to forget the rest days.

The monument salutes DiMaggio's accomplishments, including his recognition in 1969 -- a year after the Simon song was published -- as baseball's greatest living player.

It concludes with the words, "An American icon. He has passed but will never be forgotten."

Related information
Fans, friends salute DiMaggio at St. Patrick's
Yankee legend DiMaggio dead at 84
The 1998 Yankees Greatest Hits
Multimedia Memories -- Remembering Joe Dimaggio
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