Joe DiMaggio: 1941 Song Still a Hit with Baseball Fans

Jim MorisetteCorrespondent IIIAugust 8, 2012

Credit: ESPN Classic
Credit: ESPN Classic

It was summer, 1994.

At an antique shop in some rural area near Michigan’s thumb, I experienced an event that sticks with me to this day.

An avid baseball card collector at the time, I used to tag along with family to these shops now and then with hopes of finding something unique to add to my collection.  

It seemed for every story I heard about old baseball cards being tossed away, I had also heard an equal number of stories about old baseball cards discovered by accident at antique shops. So I went, though the odds of finding one of those rare baseball cards was almost nil.

After entering this shop, I wandered away as usual—mostly because there was nothing exciting about looking at antique stuff. Near the back of this shop, littered with old toys and games (and a plush toy that looked like it had been dragged through hell and back), I heard the crackle of a record with a joyful woman’s voice.

While not an original record, there was something about that woman’s voice with that crackle in the background that inspired me.

There was also the word “DiMaggio,” which was a name I recognized immediately.

But admittedly, I was not locked in to the rest of the lyrics. Honestly, I just liked the tune. It sounded pretty cool for an old song.

Plus I had a short attention span.

Flash forward nearly 20 years, I have come to appreciate both the history and the words in this iconic song, recorded on this day more than 70 years ago.

On August 8, 1941, roughly four months before Imperial Japan’s grizzly attack on Pearl Harbor, bandleader Les Brown and his orchestra stepped into the studio to record what would become one of history’s most popular baseball songs.

This song, which still manages to stick in one’s head even today, was called Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.

This song, which chronicled DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, was co-written by New York disk jockey Alan Courtney and songwriter turned Jehovah’s Witness Minister Ben Homer.

Sung by Betty Bonney, DiMaggio’s tribute debuted on the U.S. Marine Corps' birthday (November 10).

Bonney sings:

Hello Joe, whatta you know?
We need a hit so here I go.
Ball one (Yea!)
Ball two (Yea!)
Strike one (Booo!)
Strike two (Kill that umpire!)
A case of Wheaties

He started baseball's famous streak
That's got us all aglow
He's just a man and not a freak,
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio.

Joe, Joe DiMaggio
We want you on our side

He tied the mark at forty-four
July the 1st you know
Since then he's hit a good twelve more
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio

Joe, Joe DiMaggio
We want you on our side

From coast to coast that's all you'll hear
Of Joe the one man show
He's glorified the horsehide sphere
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio

Joe, Joe DiMaggio
We want you on our side

He'll live in baseball's Hall of Fame
He got there blow by blow
Our kids will tell their kids his name
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio

We dream of Joey with the light brown plaque
Joe, Joe DiMaggio
We want you on our side

And now they speak in whispers low
Of how they stopped our Joe
One night in Cleveland Oh Oh Oh
Goodbye streak DiMaggio.

Played incessantly on old wooden radios and record players, this song climbed as high as 16th on the music charts, per MusicVF.com.

Daydreaming a bit, what an exciting time it must have been then for New Yorkers to watch Yankees like DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Phil Rizzuto, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing play ball during the summer.  

Even today I still cannot help but smile when I hear Joltin' Joe. It is a song that seems to unite baseball fans, regardless of what team they regularly root for.

More importantly, it is a song that must never be forgotten.