Baseball Digest Birthdays: Dom DiMaggio | Baseball Digest
Had Dominic Paul DiMaggio been born into a different family he may have gained much more notoriety, but being the younger brother of Joe DiMaggio, Dominic was often overlooked by the media and the fans outside of Boston. However, Dom DiMaggio was beloved in front of his hometown Fenway fans and was an outstanding player in his own right.
The youngest of nine children born (Feb 12, 1917) in San Francisco, Dom had ideas of becoming a chemical engineer. His father hoped he would be a lawyer. But just like brothers Joe and Vincent, Dom had a talent that would take him to the minor league San Francisco Seals and then to the Major Leagues.
Dom was 19-yrs old when Joe made his Yankees debut. Just four years later, Dom made his first appearance for the rival Boston Red Sox. There another great outfielder, Ted Williams, would cast a long shadow over the younger DiMaggio’s career. It wouldn’t take Dom long to establish his own identity, though.
As a rookie, DiMaggio, nicknamed “The Little Professor” by his teammates due to his glasses and scholarly look, hit .301 with 32 doubles, eight home runs, 46 RBI, 46 walks, and six triples. (The Rookie of the Year Award wasn’t established until 1941.) It would be the start of a career that saw DiMaggio named to the AL All-Star team seven times. He led the league in runs scored twice, topped the AL in stolen bases and triples once, and finished in the top 20 in MVP voting four times. He was one of the best leadoff men in the game and was also a superb centerfielder. Williams had this to say, “He was the easiest outfielder I ever played with. When he yelled ‘Mine!’ you didn’t have to worry about the rest of that play.” Author David Halberstram called Dom the most underrated player of his era.
The Boston Globe’s Bob Holbrook spoke to DiMaggio in 1948 about his prowess in centerfield. Click here to read all about it!
In the years following his playing career, Dom revealed how hard it was to play in his brother’s shadow. “Yes, he’s my brother — and I’m his brother,” Mr. DiMaggio liked to say. “It’s been a struggle all my life…. It followed me all through my major league career. I was always Joe’s kid brother…. I never encouraged my two sons to get into baseball. I knew it would be twice as hard on them as it was on me. The Joe DiMaggio legend was just too strong.”
Dom played 11 seasons in the majors, sitting out three years (1943-1945) to serve during World War II. He finished as a .298 career hitter and played in one World Series in 1946 against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was part of one of the most famous plays in World Series history due to his absence. Having been removed from the game due to a pulled hamstring, Dom could only watch as his replacement, Leon Culbertson, couldn’t throw out the Cardinals’ Enos Slaughter during his famous “Mad Dash” home from 1st base to score the game’s and the World Series’ winning run.
In his post-baseball life, DiMaggio became a plastics manufacturer and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995. He and his wife Emily raised two sons and a daughter. He passed away in 2009 at 92 years of age.
Also Born Today
Ruben Amaro Jr. (Philadelphia, PA 1965): The 11th round pick in the 1987 amateur draft had a nondescript eight-year career with the Angels, Phillies, and Indians. Amaro, whose father played in the big leagues for 11 seasons, has found great success in the front office. After serving as an assistant GM for the Phillies for a decade, he was named general manager in November, 2008. He helped shape the team that won its second straight NL pennant in 2009, engineered the trade that brought 2010 CY Young winner Roy Halladay to Philly, and this winter gave the Phillies the best starting rotation in baseball by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.
Chet Lemon (Jackson, MS 1955): The centerfielder had a steady 16-year career split between the Chicago White Sox (7) and Detroit Tigers (9). He was a three time All-Star who didn’t mind taking one for the team- he led the league in hit-by-pitches four times. A .273 lifetime hitter, Lemon hit 215 career home runs and played in 1,988 games. After going hitless in 13 at-bats in the 1984 ALCS, Lemon made up for it in the Tigers’ World Series win over the Padres, hitting .294 with an RBI, two walks, and two stolen bases. Though his team lost the 1987 pennant to the Twins, he enjoyed a fine ALCS, hitting .278-2-4. Lemon, who was always commended for his work ethic, is now passing on his knowledge of the game as the coach of two AAU baseball teams in Florida.
Joe Garagiola (St. Louis, MO 1926): The catcher never had the talent of his good Missouri buddy Yogi Berra, but Joe Garagiola parlayed a nine-year career in baseball into a successful post-baseball career. Garagiola became a baseball announcer, teaming with legends like Mel Allen and Curt Gowdy, and a television personality who was seen regularly on the Today Show. He became a fixture on NBC’s MLB Game of the Week before resigning in 1988 as the network was on the verge of losing broadcast rights. In 1991 he received the Ford Frick Award for his outstanding contributions to baseball broadcasting.
Garagiola still gives back to the game in many ways, including visiting teams during spring training to warn of the dangers of chewing tobacco. He has also contributed his time to the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.)
Charles “Chick” Hafey (Berkeley, CA 1903-1973): Played 13 seasons (1924-1935, 1937) with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. To look at his numbers you would not think the outfielder had the statistics to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he did just that, elected by the veterans committee in 1971. Hafey was a solid player; he hit .317 lifetime and over a three year stretch (1928-1930) averaged 28 HR and 114 RBI. He won the 1931 batting title by getting a hit in his final at-bat. But Hafey suffered from a serious sinus condition that affected his vision and caused him to wear different eyeglasses depending on what his condition was at the time. He was a member of the 1928 Cardinals World Series winner and two other pennants, but was dealt to the Reds prior to the 1932 season after back-to-back salary disputes.