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Joe DiMaggio in the News: The Real Story

Harold FriendChief Writer IAugust 5, 2010

On Jan. 13, 1943, Joe DiMaggio announced that he was going to enlist in one of the branches of the United States armed forces to help defend freedom.

Smiling happily, DiMaggio and his wife, the former Dorothy Arnold, who had been a radio and nightclub singer, told the press that they had settled their marital differences.

Mrs. DiMaggio said, "We're very happy about it."

Her husband added, "Everything is straightened out. I'm going to try to get into the armed forces in the near future...."

DiMaggio was eager to join.

"This desire to join the Army isn't anything recently born. I seriously entertained the thought immediately after the World Series last fall, but private and domestic troubles curved my mind a little away from the Army."

One writer asked Joe if he would prefer driving a tank, riding a jeep, or manning a gun. DiMaggio responded in typical Joe DiMaggio fashion.

"...They can put me where they think I'll do the most good. I haven't asked for anything special."

In Dec. 1942, DiMaggio had gone to his draft board in San Francisco in an attempt to be reclassified from 3-A to 1-A, which would allow him to enlist, according to draft board chairman Neal Callaghan.

"He frankly stated that he wanted to get into the service. He wanted immediate action and we gave it to him."

Less than one month later, Joe DiMaggio was Private Joe DiMaggio. His salary went from $43,750 a year to $50 a month.

According to reports, DiMaggio arrived at the induction center early, easily passed the physical examination, and waived the privilege of a short leave before reporting for active duty.

Joe approached his military service the way he approached baseball.

He accomplished what had to be accomplished in a seemingly unemotional, efficient manner, but DiMaggio was often more anxious emotionally than those who observed him realized.

Recently, it was revealed that Major Emile G. Stoloff, in 1945, wrote that DiMaggio was often anxious and that he had been hospitalized while in the army with Pylorospasm, which is a spasm of the pyloric sphincter, often marked by pain and vomiting.

Major Stoloff also wrote, "...the mother is described as nervous, chiefly because of her worrisomeness (sic) about her family. There has always been a harmonious familial relationship."

Paradoxically, Major Stoloff seemingly criticized Joe DiMaggio when he wrote, "His personal problems appeared to be of more consequence to him than his obligation to adjust to the demands of the service."

It is obvious that the good Major didn't know Joseph Paul DiMaggio, who could adjust to any situation presented.

Joe DiMaggio was intense, but not hysterical. He was skillful, but not boastful. He was graceful, but not mannered.

That is how Columbia University Professor Michael Seidel, author of the most authoritative Joe DiMaggio book, Streak, Joe DiMaggio and the Summer of '41 , described him.

A slightly less intellectual individual, but one who knew DiMaggio as well as anyone, restaurateur Toots Shor, summed it up magnificently.

"I don't know what it takes to be a real hero like Joe. You can't manufacture a hero like that. It just has to be there, the way he plays, the way he works, the way he is."

The army never gave DiMaggio a real chance to contribute to the war effort, which might explain Major Stoloff's alleged criticism.

Joe played a lot of baseball for the army. By 1945, he was convinced that the military wanted him in the army in order to take advantage of Joe DiMaggio, baseball's greatest center fielder.

Joe believed that he had been made an exhibitionist, which he deeply resented.

The army attempted to discover why Joe resented that they had made him play baseball, instead of having him contribute to the war effort in other ways, but Joe refused to discuss the matter, believing the army was aware of what it was doing.

World War II ended, and Joe rejoined the Yankees for the 1946 season. But an incident that occurred in 1945 at Yankee Stadium, before he was discharged from the army, reveals the real Joe DiMaggio.

Joe entered Yankee Stadium with his four-year-old son, Joe Jr. Of course, he was immediately recognized.

The Stadium became charged with excitement as the crowd realized who was going to watch the game with them. In unison, the fans shouted, "Joe, Joe DiMaggio, Joe."

Watching Joe tell the story, one could see that he was both impressed and humbled by the reaction, but when he came to the end of the story, the love of his son was obvious.

Joe remembered looking at his son, Joe DiMaggio Jr., as the crowd chanted his name. Little Joe looked up at his father.

"See daddy—everybody knows me."



References

By The Associated Press.. (1943, January 14). DiMaggio, After Settlement of Marital Differences, Tells of Plan to Enter Service. New York Times (1923-Current file),27. Retrieved August 5, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 85069793).

Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. (1943, February 17). Preliminary Examination Passed. New York Times (1923-Current file),27. Retrieved August 5, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 83901559).

By The Associated Press.. (1943, February 18). DiMaggio Now Army Private on Coast :YANKS' OUTFIELDER WAIVES FURLOUGH DiMaggio Passes Army Physical, Then Leaves for Reception Center at Monterey. New York Times (1923-Current file),28. Retrieved August 5, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 88518149).

Pylorospasm Defined

Joe DiMaggio's Army Service at Fox News

Seidel, Michael. Streak: Joe DiMaggio and the Summer of '41 . Lincoln Nebraska: Bison Press. 2002.