Game 37: June 25, 1941
In “DiMaggio: Setting the Record Straight,” the Yankee Clipper’s close friend and attorney during the the last 16 years of his life, Morris Engelberg, tells how Joe DiMaggio for the longest time would tell people: “I’m just an Italian ballplayer.”
Engelberg, in a recent telephone interview, said that DiMaggio told him “for the longest time he didn’t know what the attraction was about … especially early in The Streak.”
As Joltin’ Joe continued his assault on George Sisler’s American League mark (41), then caught and passed Willie Keeler (44) for the major-league standard, the world around him hung on his every move.
The first of many songs, literary works and motion pictures to make a fuss over the Yankee centerfielder came near the end of that fabulous 1941 season.
“Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio,” a little ditty made famous by bandleader Les Brown, was written by Alan Courtney and—of all people—Ben Homer.
“He started baseball’s famous streak
That’s got us all aglow
He’s just a man and not a freak
Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.”
The refrain echoed the lament of every American League foe: “Joe. Joe DiMaggio. We want you on our side.”
Throughout his career and life, artists borrowed from DiMaggio.
The Dust Bowl Troubadour Woody Guthrie penned “Joe DiMaggio Done It Again” in 1949. The stage play “South Pacific” mentioned him. In “The Old Man and the Sea,” fisherman Santiago felt a kinship with DiMaggio and his family: fishermen for generations.
The Old Man follows DiMaggio daily in the newspaper and extols his idol’s qualities of resilience and courage. He embraces DiMaggio’s traits in his three-day ordeal with the marlin.
In 1967’s “Mrs. Robinson,” pop stars Simon and Garfunkel pine for another American hero as the duo asked, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
For a long while, DiMaggio was offended by the song, telling Engelberg, “I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m right here.”
Later songwriter Paul Simon told DiMaggio is was “a sincere tribute.” Joe said he was satisfied with Simon’s explanation.
Oh, The Streak... On June 25, 1941, DiMaggio again waited until the eighth inning to get a hit – this time a three-run homer in a 7-5 win over St. Louis. The Streak was alive at 37.
Despite what he thought, Joe DiMaggio now was anything but just an Italian ballplayer.
JoeDiMaggio.com is the official and authorized Web site of Joe DiMaggio. During the 70th anniversary of DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, it is publishing “Reliving Joe DiMaggio’s Streak,” which follows the daily progress of Joltin' Joe in 1941