THE GREATEST BALLPLAYER OF ALL TIMES
By John Speranza
I am a Yankee fan for over sixty years and in that time I have followed the careers of many of the various players. There were many great ones but the greatest of them all was Joe DiMaggio who was also known as Jolting Joe and The Yankee Clipper. He was one of three brothers who followed baseball careers. When as a young boy he played on makeup teams, being the first picked by the Captain. He was the best early on. His father was a fisherman and did not want his boys to play ball until Joe proved that he could make a lot of money. He started playing in the Pacific Coast League with the Seals and set several records among them a sixty-one hitting streak. The major league owners became interested but when Joe was injured all but the Yankees lost interest. In 1934 he signed a deal with the Yankees and after playing his last year in the Pacific Coast League he joined the Yankees in 1936.
Joe set American League records in his first year of runs, triples and hit .323 with 29 HR and 125 RBI. Not bad for a start He was a natural hitter and could hit the ball where he wanted to most of the time. He was very good at waiting for the pitch he wanted. He hit homers in the Yankee Stadium the toughest park for righties. He hit 361 homers during his career but struck out only 369 times during this time, which is a phenomenal ratio for a power hitter. This is about a one to one ratio. Compare this to other power hitters.
Joe was more than a hitter; he also was a splendid defensive outfielder with a great throwing arm. He mad tough plays look easy. He was graceful and free of theatrics, always in position to make the play. He knew where and how to play all of his opponents. His teammates followed his lead when playing. He ran the bases extremely well and managed to get extra bases when possible.
Joe started his career in 1936 and played until 1942 when he went in the Army. During this time he hit over .300 and exceeded 100 RBI. In 1941 he set an AL record of hitting safely in 56 straight games, which helped him to edge Ted Williams for the MVP award.
After three prime years he returned but the pennant was won by the Red Sox in 1946. The Yankees won in 1947, 1949, 1950, and 1951 missing the pennant in 1948 when Joe had a painful heel injury. In 1948 even with the heel injury he led the league in home runs and RBI. He was an inspiration to his teammates and finally retired in 1954.
The Yankee Clipper records were as listed herewith.
Led League in BA 1939-40
Led League in HR 1937, 1948
Led League in RBI 1941, 1948
All Stars in all active years.
MVP Player in 1939, 1941, 1947
Hall of Fame 1955
Joe DiMaggio was a great ball player and a real gentleman. He always dressed up when he went to the Ball Park as well as affairs. Even though he did not get the high salary of today’s players his popularity earned by his playing brought in more money from appearances, autographs, souvenir sales and product endorsements. His highest salary was $100.000.00 but his estate was worth millions. He was voted the greatest living ball player in 1969. I feel that Joe was not only the greatest living player but will be the greatest player of all times. He is a true player who played to his feeling that you have to try to be perfect or do not try at all. He demonstrated his ability before the fans he loved and wanted to serve. He never complained about his salary and after signing a contract he gave his best efforts.
The Yankee Stadium may be the house that Ruth built but it is the house that Joe DiMaggio made solid.