The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, Their Passion for Baseball, Their Pursuit of the American Dream
More than any other sport, baseball provides fans with a substantial family connection. The Boones --- Ray, son Bob, and grandsons Bret and Aaron --- have played in the major leagues and were the first family to send three generations of players to the All-Star game. Fathers and sons from the Griffeys to the McRaes to the Swishers are well-known. Brothers Paul and Lloyd Waner ("Big Poison" and "Little Poison") are both members of the Hall of Fame. Felipe, Matty and Jesus Alou formed an outfield of brothers, and Felipe’s son Moises played for 17 seasons in the National League. THE DiMAGGIOS by Tom Clavin is a tribute to a baseball family whose middle son, Joe DiMaggio (“The Yankee Clipper”), is considered to be one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.
"THE DiMAGGIOS is a vivid portrait of a unique American family, as well as a splendid recounting of an incredible era in baseball history. For Father’s Day or any baseball fan, it will make a wonderful summer read."
Much has been written about DiMaggio, and Clavin credits many of the authors who chronicled the life of the player who insisted that he be introduced at old-timer's games as “the greatest living ballplayer.” It was in Boston in 1986 that Dominic, Vince and Joe DiMaggio appeared together at such an event for the first and only time. For years there had been strains in the relationship, and neither Dom nor Joe was aware that Vince was suffering from stomach cancer. He would live less than five months after this final reunion. While Vince and Dom kept in contact, their relationship with their middle brother was difficult. Dom’s baseball career was with the Boston Red Sox, and he played alongside Ted Williams, who battled with DiMaggio for the title of greatest player of their era. Williams and DiMaggio also had a strained relationship, fueled to some degree by the fact that Williams was more of a mentor to Dom than his own brother.
THE DiMAGGIOS is much more than a baseball book chronicling the professional accomplishments of three brothers. Certainly there are full accounts of their careers. Vince, the eldest DiMaggio, played for 10 years in the National League. Joe was a member of the Yankees, and even those with passing knowledge of the sport are aware of his extraordinary achievements. Dom, the youngest brother, played 11 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. However, the joy in reading the book comes from its portrayal of the family, first-generation Americans whose father came here from Italy, toiling in California as a fisherman. Giuseppe DiMaggio believed in America and wanted the American dream for his nine children. For Giuseppe, playing baseball for money and being adored by millions of fans were achievements he could never fully comprehend.
The DiMaggio saga is also the story of baseball in the mid-20th century as the game truly became our national pastime. When the DiMaggios began their careers, the western boundary of major league baseball was in St. Louis, Missouri. The Pacific Coast League, technically a minor league, produced dozens of players now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The young DiMaggios honed their skills playing for teams in that league. Vince’s contract would be purchased by the Boston Bees of the National League, Joe’s by the Yankees, and Dom’s by the Red Sox. The three brothers were all center fielders, although Joe began his career as a shortstop. While Vince was playing for the San Francisco Seals, the team’s shortstop Augie Galan was invited to barnstorm in Hawaii. The Seals manager was reluctant to lose Galan until Vince suggested that his brother Joe join the team. In 1933, Joe would hit in 61 consecutive games for the Seals, a streak he would almost match when he hit in 56 consecutive games for the Yankees (still a baseball record).
That the three brothers would end up as such different individuals is part of the engrossing saga of Tom Clavin’s book. THE DiMAGGIOS is a vivid portrait of a unique American family, as well as a splendid recounting of an incredible era in baseball history. For Father’s Day or any baseball fan, it will make a wonderful summer read.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on May 24, 2013