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'We must be in heaven together'
Friend says DiMaggio well after seeing death reported
Posted: Tuesday January 26, 1999 07:36 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Joe DiMaggio was watching NBC when the network reported he had died, a friend said Monday.
"He was livid," said Morris Engelberg, who was with the New York Yankees great when the erroneous report was broadcast Sunday night. "Then I made him laugh. I said, 'Joe, we must be in heaven together."'
NBC said a technician in the network's New York control room inadvertently sent the erroneous report during the "Dateline NBC" program.
The report came on as a "crawl," or words running at the bottom of the television screen, at about 7:30 p.m. EST: "This is an NBC News Special Report. Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio has died at his Florida home. He was 84 years old and had." The message was then cut off.
NBC ran another crawl about 20 minutes later, saying its previous report was inaccurate. "Mr. DiMaggio remains in stable condition at his Florida home," the report said, running over a taped Katie Couric interview with actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
"He just hit the wrong button," network spokesman Cory Shields said of the technician. Shields would not identify the technician.
Engelberg said he and DiMaggio happened to be watching a video of a movie, "Gunfight at the OK Corral," and had just stopped the tape when the report was aired.
DiMaggio, who has lung cancer, was released last week from Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., after spending 99 days in intensive care. He is too weak to undergo chemotherapy.
An NBC employee had typed the report and stored it in NBC's computer earlier in the day after reading a New York Daily News report that DiMaggio was in grave condition. The report quoted a source as saying DiMaggio had been released from the hospital because there was nothing else that could be done for him. Engelberg called the report "absurd."
Not only is DiMaggio not dead, he is not in hopeless condition, his doctor said today.
"He is progressing nicely since his discharge from Memorial Regional Hospital one week ago," Dr. Earl Barron said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press. "Over the weekend, his physical therapy has progressed to the point that he is walking. Reports of his condition worsening are not true."
NBC was trying to reach DiMaggio's camp to apologize but hadn't reached anyone yet, spokeswoman Alex Constantinopole said today.
Although the erroneous NBC report was sent out only on East Coast stations, some affiliates in the Midwest or West may have also picked up the report and run it, Shields said.
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