Your Take: Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Posted: Tuesday March 09, 1999 01:04 AM
A sign outside of New York's Yankee Stadium echoes your sentiments exactly. AP
This week, the sports world is mourning the passing of Joe DiMaggio after
his death Monday at the age of 84. We turned to you, the "nation's lonely
eyes," to find out your personal thoughts about the Yankee Clipper, and
what he meant to you in your own lives.
Jerry Johnson, Itasca, Illinois:
I think Simon & Garfunkel best
summed it up in their song "Mrs. Robinson:" "Where have you gone, Joe
DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you..." That song was written
in 1968, and I think Paul Simon meant it as saying that back when Joe
played, life was much simpler, and we all had our heroes and idols to look
up to. Now sadly, Joltin' Joe has left and gone away, and I think that he
is truly the last character that made baseball America's Pasttime. Gone
are the days when dads took their kids to the ballpark for a 10 cent hot
dog and bag of peanuts. Gone are the days when little boys collected Joe
DiMaggio baseball cards and put them into their sacred books. These are
the things I think of when Joltin' Joe comes to mind. "Heaven holds a
place for those who pray - hey hey hey..." I hope there's a Yankee Stadium
in Heaven for Joltin' Joe.
Jeremy Rucker, Annandale, Virginia:
When I was ten years old
and laid up in bed in a half body cast resulting from two broken legs, one
playing baseball, I received the best gift a kid could have ever gotten.
My dad handed me a little note that was signed by Joe DiMaggio on Jefferson
Hotel stationary. My dad who worked at the Jefferson Hotel in D.C. ran up
to DiMaggio and explained my situation. DiMaggio then wrote this: "Jeremy,
Good Luck with your future baseball, Joe DiMaggio." I never saw him play,
but he really made my time in my cast that much better. He even gave me
the drive to become successful in baseball when I got out of my cast. I
framed that piece of stationary that is priceless in my eyes.
Christopher M. Donofro, Rochester, New York:
sybolized understated class. Godspeed, Yankee Clipper.
Jim Roche, Rockville, Maryland:
Class. First, Last and
Always... Having been too young to see Joe play, I was regaled by stories
from my Father about Joe D. He didn't say much... Did his "talking" on the
field. But when he retired after the 1951 season, he spoke these words
which say so much... even today. "When Baseball is no longer fun... it is
no longer a game... And so, I've played my last game of ball..." That says
Milton Jenkins, Chicago, Illinois:
I saw Joe D. on Jan 1, 1984,
walking woth a friend down Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, not far from
his home on Beach Street. I was practically frozen, and didn't approach
him, as no one else did. He leaned out to look for traffic, and I saw him
and his friend walk like any other folks, but my heart was beating like a
hummingbird. I though it was the last time I'd see him, but luckily I met
him at a card show in 1992. I also remember when he was coaching for the
Oakland A's, and while the players were too busy to look towards the fans
(Reggie Jackson screamed at one kid , "Can't you see I'm busy?", Joe signed
one after another until another coach dragged him away for a pre-game
meeting. I guess that's the kind of guy he was. I wish I could see him
Tim Ross, Atlanta, Georgia:
As a 35 year old baseball fan,
obviously I never had the opportunity to see Joe play a Major League game.
But, I was one of the fortunate few who actually got to see Joe lace them
up for the last time. My father took me to an Old-Timers game at Atlanta
Fulton County Stadium in the mid to late 70's. This was Joe's last time to
ever appear in an Old-Timers game. Joe, you will be missed, but your
legend will live on forever. Thanks for the memories!
Michael Bradford, Waxahachie, Texas:
True greatness has left
our world for a better place.
Rudolph Garcia, Santa Clara, California:
I'm truly saddened.
We lost not only a great athlete and ambassador for the game of baseball,
but a wonderful public figure. Even as intensely private a person he was,
when he was out he always conducted himself with dignity and humility.
I'm 27, and to me, DiMaggio has represented the game of baseball and how a
player should be. This country has lost someone who truly represented the
good things of this nation. Good Bye, Joe. And thanks for the memories
you have left behind.
Todd Schmidt, Cherry Hill, New Jersey:
A few years ago I was at
the Stadium for Phil Rizzuto night. As part of the night they introduced
Joe DiMaggio. In more than 30 stadium visits I had never heard a stadium
roar quite like this. The ovation lasted 10 minutes, all of it standing.
And the man on the field could only offer a confident, graceful wave to us
all. Most of us had never seen him play -- only the stories passed down by
our fathers. In a time when America is skeptical of heroes, we just kept
clapping for this man who represented what we were told Sports should be
about. It was an honor to be there with him. He never asked to be a legend.
Maybe that's why he became one.
Tom Shaughnessy, Buffalo, New York:
I compare DiMaggio to Bill
Russell in that both played on and anchored the best teams of their era
while having an individual rival with better statistics on teams that were
not quite as strong. Being a Ted Williams and Wilt Chamberlain fan, the
arguments of individual vs. team greatness is a debate that will continue.
Joltin' Joe certainly understood the publicity machine and his marraige to
Marilyn Monroe cemented his fame. As far as a legend and hero, the press
was much softer on the early stars and Joe benefitted as the leader of the
Jimmy Clowes, Port Orange, Florida:
I am a 20 year old college
student who enjoys the game of baseball. When I first heard of Joe
Dimaggio's death, I started to cry. Jolton Joe was not only a symbol for
baseball, but a symbol for all man-kind. He was a patriot to his country
during World War II., and was loved by all. Joe D. was a simple man who
worked for what he wanted. I am going to miss hearing from Joe, and as a
Yankee fan, opening day will not be the same. We always have the memories
of the Yankee Clipper, and even though I never saw him play, his memory
will always be in my heart. One day I will be a father, and my children
will know what a winner is like, when I tell them about Joe D.
Rick Sarni, Boston, Massachusetts:
I was born in Boston and
moved to the San Francisco area as an adult. Joe was more than just a hero
as an athlete but also a role model as a person. Whether on the field or on
the street he was a person to be admired. His life provided quiet
inspiration for so many of us. His name is synonomous with baseball and
Edward Heiberger, Denver, Colorado
Joe Dimaggio was Baseball.
He stood for what the game was all about. He loved it and lived it. Not
only has a great legend died, but so has a part of baseball. Joe Dimaggio
brought great joy to all of us in Life, and Now as Spring approches, we
will remember him as if he where still alive.
First and foremost, DiMaggio was truly a good guy. AP
Bob Nace, Frederick, Maryland:
I was a 9 year old baseball
player and fan during Joe DiMaggio's last year, 1951. We didn't even have
Little League until 2 summers later, nor TV in our home until the next
year. I could see him occasionally at a neighbors. I'd get to hear Yankee
games on the radio when they played Cleveland. I could still "see" his
skill, class, and grace from the radio and my father's baseball wisdom. I
had the luxury of growing up as all boys should, with their father as their
best coach. Yes, he told me that the Yankee Clipper was the greatest all
around baseball player ever. And he was correct!
Tom LaNinfa, Gainesville, Florida:
Joe was the best all-around
player EVER. He could field, run, throw and hit, in the clutch. If he
were playing today, he could hit well over 70 homeruns, with these class A
or AA pitchers, and the smaller ball parks, including Yankee Stadium where
to center field was 464 feet and to left center 404 feet He was not like
the greedy players of today. He was a gentleman on and off the field.
Tom Evans, Buffalo, New York:
As I get older, each baseball
hero who dies brings me sadness. I was too young to see him play, but just
the name sent shivers through me. He was like a god, and they they don't
seem that way anymore. The world will never see his like again. He made me
think of the war years, the scarcities of those times, but the hopes he
brought, of young New York Italians, perhaps coming home from the war and
just starting out, and I always think of Paul Simon's song, and how when I
first heard it in those turbulent times of the 60's, how nostalgic it made
me. One of the greatest nicknames of all time - Joltin' Joe.
John Dunlap, Washington, D.C.:
Even as a Red Sox fan I always
knew that the hated Yankees had one man you just couldn't hate -- Joe
DiMaggio. He embodied grace on the field and off. He was a thing of beauty
and the stuff of legends. And you knew all you needed to know about Joe's
place in baseball when the great Ted Williams said he thought DiMaggio was
a better player. DiMaggio elevated his sport and his culture -- how often
can you say that anymore?
Karen Moeller, New York, New York:
Joe DiMaggio means class and
loyalty, skill at both the sport of baseball and the art of reserve. He
let his performance on the field and his quiet carriage off the field speak
for him, and they did so in ways that words never could. He will be
missed, both for what he meant as an icon and a hero, and for what he did
as a person.
Charles LaDuca, Silver Spring, Maryland:
I am an
Italian/Sicilian American AND I am also a life-long Yankee fan. Joe Di
Maggio means more to me than I can possibly express. He gave the Italian
American generations of my parents' and grandparents' an outlet for their
ethnic pride and hope that success in and acceptance by the larger society
could ultimately be achieved. He was an exceptional athlete who carried
himself in a way that made others outside of the Italian community take
notice too. But perhaps most importantly, his quiet grace and dignity
represented the best of Italian Americans and demonstrated the inaccuracy
of stereotype. Finally, he represents the mythology of Baseball. There
was a time when it was an epic sport. And no one stood taller during that
special time that Joe DiMaggio. Rest in peace, Joe D.
Jhamal Hannibal Abdur-Rahman, Hackensack, New Jersey:
not many human beings in any field, that have the GRACE & CLASS of the
great Joe D. In todays world of sports we have a bunch of clowns and
buffoons. Very few have any loyalty to there team and the greedy owners are
just as bad. I no longer watch professional sports because of the circus
like atmosphere. That seems to be the American way in todays society. Where
profanity has replaced English. It's nice to know that there was a time
when people showed their class, and no one had more than Joe DiMaggio.
CLASS has no creed nor color. May he rest in peace.
John Lucraft, Brisbane, Australia:
Joe Dimaggio is one of the
greatest players on the greatest club in all of sports, but to me he is an
example of how great athletes can and should act. Their are very few
athletes today who can even come close to his acheivements on the field and
even fewer who display the dignity and grace of this legend of the game.
Joe Dimaggio you will always be a champion.
Jonah Falcon, New York, New York:
Obviously, at age 28, I am
too young to have seen him played. Video clips probably don't do him
What does Joe DiMaggio mean to me? Well, being a lifetime Yankee fan, he
belongs in the Yankee Pantheon, alongside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey
Mantle, and Joe McCarthy. They were what the franchise is symbolized as.
However, the others of the Yankee Olympus lacked a certain quality that Joe
DiMaggio did, that certain je ne sais quoi.
Stan Musial is THE Cardinal, Ted Williams is THE Red Sox, and Joe DiMaggio
is THE Yankee, even more than the Great Ruth was.
Red Sox and Cardinal fans should appreciate Musial and Williams are still
around. Ditto for Giants fans with Willie Mays, and Dodgers for Tom
Lasorda. While they are around, they can relate what the game of the late
30's through the 60's were like. They know what Ebbets Field looked like,
what Crosley Field was like. They could tell you what it was like riding
the train to the games, or what Wrigley Field was like without the ivy.
There are the baseball sages, and of the elite.
Yes, Phil Rizzuto and Joe Garagiola can tell you what it was like, but to
hear it from the true elite, the Gods of the Baseball of the Fifties, is a
Jim Johnston, Chariton, Iowa:
God bless him.
God rest him.