“I watched every move Lou made on and off the field,” Joe DiMaggio said after he had been introduced by baseball commissioner Ford Frick at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
DiMaggio explained that he tried to pattern himself after Lou Gehrig. There is no question that he succeeded.
The New York Yankees have had many outstanding players, but none was a finer human being than Gehrig. DiMaggio was a close second. Fans appreciated DiMaggio, and they showed it.
There was polite applause when Frick introduced Frank “Home Run” Baker, Ray Shalk, Gabby Hartnett, Dazzy Vance and Ted Lyons. When the commissioner extended his hand to DiMaggio, the throng went wild with unrestrained cheering that would have made even Marilyn Monroe gratified.
“I’m proud indeed to be put alongside Lou, Bill Dickey, my other old teammates, and those other great players of my time and before.” DiMaggio was truly humbled
DiMaggio was returning to New York from Boston. As he slowed down just before entering the Bronx, a truck driver shouted something that DiMaggio later said sounded like “congratulations.” DiMaggio added that he thought that he also heard “Hall of Fame.”
“I didn’t know what to believe, so I turned on my car radio and sure enough, it was true.”
The tremendous love the fans showed DiMaggio at the induction might have been exceeded on Joe DiMaggio Day at the end of the 1949 season. DiMaggio, who was never ever nervous when facing Bob Feller or any other pitcher, admitted that this was different.
“Look,” he said, holding out his hands before the ceremonies at Yankee Stadium. His hands were trembling.
The Boston Red Sox were lined up near home plate during the ceremonies. They presented DiMaggio with a plaque that had the name of each Boston player inscribed on it. Even the team fighting the Yankees for the 1949 pennant appreciated DiMaggio as a person.
Since his death, there have been some pathetic attempts to denigrate DiMaggio. They merely reveal the lack of class of those individuals that seek to change the truth.