LOST IN THE MIST In December 1954 Lombardi and Fordham, where he had been a member in the 1930s of the line renowned as the Seven Blocks of Granite, came to terms for him to become head coach. But days later the school's president announced that the Rams had been losing too much money on football and would be leaving the Big Time. Before he turned the Eagles down, Lombardi had also applied for but failed to land head-coaching jobs at Air Force, Penn and Washington.
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
ROAD NOT TAKEN Through the '40s the layouts of their respective home ballparks fueled the rumor to end all trade rumors: Fenway's Green Monster was an inviting target for the righthanded-hitting DiMaggio, while Yankee Stadium's short rightfield porch was just the ticket for the lefty Williams. The whispers became most audible during and after the 1946 World Series, as a slumping Williams and the Red Sox lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals. During a boozy evening at the Manhattan saloon Toots Shor's in April 1947, Boston owner Tom Yawkey and Yankees co-owner Dan Topping agreed to the deal--but also agreed to sleep on it.
ROAD TAKEN The next morning a hung-over Yawkey had second thoughts. He told Topping that he couldn't swap Williams straight up, and that the Yankees needed to throw in their "little leftfielder"--a rookie named Yogi Berra. Topping refused. DiMaggio went on to win an MVP award that season and lead the Yanks to four World Series titles before retiring in 1951. Williams played another 14 seasons in Boston, winding up with 521 home runs and a career average of .344.
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD Boston sportswriter Clif Keane once asked DiMaggio what he thought of Williams. "Greatest lefthanded hitter I've ever seen," DiMaggio replied. Keane pressed him--what did he think of Williams as a ballplayer? "Greatest lefthanded hitter I've ever seen," said DiMag. Williams, in his autobiography My Turn at Bat, wrote this of DiMaggio: "In my heart I have always felt I was a better hitter than Joe ... but I have to say that he was the greatest baseball player of our time."
LOST IN THE MIST Baseball writers disdained Williams as much as they respected DiMaggio, a circumstance never more evident than at the end of that '47 season, when Williams ranked higher in every major hitting category yet lost to DiMaggio in the MVP balloting. If the one Boston writer who didn't even put Williams on his ballot had given him even a 10th-place vote, Williams would have beaten DiMaggio out.