The Series was thrilling enough, but disappointing. The vicious Willie McCovey line drive that would have scored Matty Alou and Willie Mays with the winning runs in the seventh game was caught by Bobby Richardson somewhere near second base. It was over just like that. I was numb in spirit and in the seat of the pants on my concrete perch. There was a kind of double anticlimax. The Giants had lost and I had seen the Series, if under circumstances far from ideal. What was there left to do now? Become President? Write the Great American Novel? Escape to Tahiti? That is the trouble with experience: it ruins anticipation.
How much more rewarding, in fact, was that Series heard from the back seat of a Studebaker, my first serious meeting with Joltin' Joe. We were to meet again years later. He and I were both patrons of a restaurant operated by Joe's close friend, Reno Barsocchini. DiMaggio would sit silently at one end of the bar, I noisily at the other. He is a private man, and in Reno's that privacy was strictly enforced. Five years ago Reno gave a party for DiMaggio on the occasion of his 56th birthday and the 29th anniversary of his 56-game hitting streak. It was something of an honor to be invited, since the majority of the guests were DiMaggio's old friends from Fisherman's Wharf. It was what DiMaggio enjoyed most, a private party. I was seated across from a man I shall call Charlie, because for the life of me I cannot remember his name. He had been a left-handed pitcher in DiMaggio's playground days, and he, too, was apologetic about being there. "I haven't seen the Clipper [they all called him the Clipper] much since we were kids," said Charlie. "I didn't think he'd remember me."
DiMaggio gave no formal speech. He simply greeted his friends, recalled old times, referred to a few of the guests by name. Finally, he spotted Charlie. "Hey, there's Charlie," DiMaggio called out. "Now Charlie here was as fine a young lefthander as I ever saw. Never could understand why he didn't make it to the bigs."
Charlie was flabbergasted. He looked as if he might cry. "Did ya hear what the Clipper had to say about me?"
Twenty-nine years had passed since he first held me in his thrall with his hitting streak and his World Series heroics, but I knew then I had never been wrong about Joltin' Joe DiMaggio.