Book review: Joe DiMaggio The Long Vigil

“Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil” by Jerome Charyn paints a picture of what Joe D was like as a person on and off the field. If you’ve never read a biography about “The Daig,” you should really check this book out. It portrays The Clipper in a whole new light — as an uneducated, stingy recluse/hermit who rarely talked to his teammates and could hold a grudge like no other. Very interesting stuff this book is.

Hank Greenberg:

If he said hello to you, that was a long conversation.

I guess I know Joe for almost 40 years now. We’ve played hundreds of games against each other. I’ve talked to him hundreds of times at banquets…In a way, though, I guess I don’t really know him. I don’t know if anybody knows Joe DiMaggio.

Regardless of what your dad or grandfather tells you, Joe D was far from a saint. He may have been one of the greatest players of all time, but he was far from the greatest off the field. Charyn even draws comparisons between No. 5 and Alex Rodriguez.

The book describes the Clipper’s life as a young boy — the son of Italian immigrants — in San Francisco to his later life as a retired ball player who is forced to be the spokesman for Mr. Coffee, and everything in between. It goes into great detail about his tumultuous marriage with Marilyn Monroe as well as his tumultuouser first marriage to Dorothy Arnold, in addition to his life as a tortured ballplayer.

The book also recalls how DiMaggio wouldn’t give Mickey Mantle the time of day when he arrived with the Yankees in 1951. The two never had any sort of relationship, as DiMaggio felt the Mick was usurping his spot in center.

Charyn also reveals that Joe was very reluctant to enlist in the Army, and only did so “after much brooding.”

Other interesting facts and tid-bits from the book:

  • Arthur Miller was a Communist.
  • Marilyn Monroe cheated on DiMaggio with Frank Sinatra, who beat her and had ties to the mafia.
  • During Mickey Mantle Day in 1965 — three years after Marilyn Monroe died — Joe D was present on the field at Yankee Stadium. Robert Kennedy was also there and shook hands with “every Yankee he could find.” However, when he approached the Yankee Clipper, Bobby got the “Sicilian Stare” because Joe D blamed the Kennedys for killing Marilyn Monroe. Like any good Italian, the guy could hold a grudge.
  • For 20 years after Marilyn’s death, Joe D had a half-dozen red roses sent to her crypt three times a week.
  • Joe D said of Ted Williams, The Kid “throws like a broad and runs like a ruptured duck.”

Whether you’re a Yankee fan or not, but especially if you’re a baseball fan, I implore you to read this book. You will not be disappointed, I promise.

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