Joltin Joe and The Worm--a Tale Of Two Eras

Dave DalbyContributor IFebruary 5, 2010

20 Oct 1996:  Baseball great Joe Dimaggio walks out to the pitchers mound to throw out the first pitch of the 1996 World Series Game One between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. The Braves defeated the Yankees 12-1. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger  /Allsport
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Reading Jon Schuman's article on the 10 Weirdest athletes of all time brought me back to a very strange experience I had many years ago.  Jon's number 2 Weird Athlete is Dennis Rodman--The Worm.  The experience--a card show I attended in Anaheim Ca.  What made the experience so memorable was the clash of cultures and Eras that I encountered.

The date was June 29, 1996 and the event Was the National Sports Card Show that was being held at the Anaheim Convention Center.  I felt it might be a good time to get Joe DiMaggio's autograph.  The cost was a semi prohibitive $175 but I figured I would not have much time left to see Joe and get an autograph.

I found my way to the Autograph area and experienced one of the greatest contrasts I have ever witnessed in my life.  Joltin Joe DiMaggio was seated at a table about 15-20 back from where the line ended.  Would-be autograph seekers were called up one at a time to have their articles signed.  The next line over, maybe a distance of some 15 feet, was a similar setup for Dennis Rodman.

The difference between the people waiting for the Worm's autograph and those waiting for Joltin Joe's was only surpassed by the difference in the two sports figures themselves.  There was the Worm with pierced ears, nose, and multi colored hair and here was Joe dressed much as you see him in the attached picture.  The people in the Worm's line looked the part of their hero and were fairly young.  The people in my line were mostly older baseball fans there to see the Yankee Clipper. 

I am not sure what experience those people had in the Worm's line, but I can tell you that I left knowing I had met a real gentleman.  There was not one hair out of place when I approached Joe for the autograph.  The necktie Joe wore was perfectly tied and the white shirt immaculately set against a dark blue suit.  After Joe signed the picture I had brought I said "Thank you Mr. Dimaggio".  He said "Thank You", and offered a handshake and smile.

After I left the Sports Show I reflected back that I had witnessed the History of Sports from 1950 to 1996.  We had come from Joe D to the Worm in that amount of time. Sports had made that long strange journey and with it had come America.  

"Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio, our Nation turns its lonely eyes to you"-----Paul Simon