Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio

This blog will be the first part of several blogs regarding our road trip to the San Francisco area. One of the places we made a planned stop at was the town of Colma- which I will talk a little more about in a following blog. Anyway, In one cemetery called Holy Cross ( isn't there always a Holy Cross Cemetery in every city?) As we were meandering through, my attention was caught by a shiny black monument upon which several pieces of sports equipment- namely bats, balls and gloves had been laid. It was the resting place of none other than Joe DiMaggio.

Since I had not done my usual research into who was interred where before we came up here it was an interesting surprise. What I thought was most endearing were the pieces of equipment- many obviously from little league, left for him. And something else too. Coins. Coins left in a small ridge on the edge of the part of the monument that bears his name. In most cases of grave coins, the coins left are overwhelmingly pennies, but in this case the nickles were at least equal with the pennies. Likely a tie in to Joe's number 5, which the Yankees retired.

Traditionally coins left for the dead (usually in 3's) are a sort of tribute or payment if you will, in advance for a request or favor you are asking the deceased to assist you with. I wondered how many young men have come here and asked 'ol Jolttin Joe to help them excell in baseball, give them a little of his 'mojo', and leaving the coins with hopes that somehow Joe would be out there on the field with them the very next game. I would bet that more than one professional player has paid a visit to the Yankee Clipper for the very same reason. Below I have included a little history on Joe DiMaggio for your reading pleasure.

Joseph Paul DiMaggio (November 25, 1914 – March 8, 1999), born Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., was an American baseball player for the New York Yankees. He was the middle of three brothers who each became major league center fielders, the others being Vince and Dom.
A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, DiMaggio was a 3-time MVP winner and 13-time All-Star (the only player to be selected for the All-Star Game in every season he played). At the time of his retirement, he had the fifth-most career home runs (361) and sixth-highest slugging percentage (.579) in history. He is perhaps best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941), a record that still stands. A 1969 poll conducted to coincide with the centennial of professional baseball voted him the sport's greatest living player.
Joe DiMaggio was born in Martinez, California, the eighth of nine children born to immigrants of Italy, Giuseppe (1872–1949) and Rosalia (Mercurio) DiMaggio (1878–1951). He was delivered by a midwife identified on his birth certificate as Mrs. J. Pico. He was named after his father; "Paolo" was in honor of Giuseppe's favorite saint, Saint Paul. The family moved to San Francisco, California when Joe was one year old.
Giuseppe was a fisherman, as were generations of DiMaggios before him. DiMaggio's brother, Tom, told biographer Maury Allen that Rosalia's father, also a fisherman, wrote to her that Giuseppe could earn a better living in California than in their native Isola delle Femmine. After being processed on Ellis Island, he worked his way across the country, eventually settling near Rosalia's father in Pittsburg, California. After four years, he was able to earn enough money to send for her and their daughter, who was born after he had left for the United States.
It was Giuseppe's hope that his five sons would become fishermen. DiMaggio recalled that he would do anything to get out of cleaning his father's boat, as the smell of dead fish nauseated him. Giuseppe called him "lazy" and "good for nothing;" Giuseppe's opposition was due to not understanding how baseball could help DiMaggio "get away from the poverty" and make something of himself.
DiMaggio was playing semi-pro ball when Vince DiMaggio, playing for the San Francisco Seals, talked his manager into letting DiMaggio fill in at shortstop; he made his professional debut on October 1, 1932. From May 27 – July 25, 1933, he got at least one hit in a PCL-record 61 consecutive games: "Baseball didn't really get into my blood until I knocked off that hitting streak. Getting a daily hit became more important to me than eating, drinking or sleeping."
In 1934, his career almost ended. Going to his sister's house for dinner, he tore the ligaments in his left knee while stepping out of a jitney. The Seals, hoping to sell DiMaggio's contract for $100,000 now couldn't give him away; the Chicago Cubs turned down a no-risk tryout. Scout Bill Essick pestered the New York Yankees to give the 19 year-old another look. After DiMaggio passed a test on his knee, he was bought on November 21 for $25,000 and 5 players, with the Seals keeping him for the 1935 season. He batted .398 with 154 RBIs and 34 HRs, led the Seals to the 1935 PCL title, and was named the League's Most Valuable Player.

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