Joe DiMaggio was destined for great things early, it seemed, as he put together a 61-game hitting streak for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1933 … at the age of 18.
The Yankees sent five players and $25,000 cash to the Seals to purchase DiMaggio’s rights after the 1934 season, but because of a knee injury that sidelined him the final two months of the season, the Yankees had DiMaggio play another year with San Francisco to ensure he was healthy, per the Society for American Baseball Research.
DiMaggio hit .398 with 34 homers and 154 RBI and the Yankees were convinced.
He debuted with the Yankees in 1936, starting at all three outfield spots before finally settling into center field, where he remained for the rest of his career.
He led the league with 15 triples as a rookie and followed it up with the home run crown in 1937, belting 46.
DiMaggio won two straight batting titles in 1939 and 1940, led the league in homers and RBI in 1948 and amassed 418 total bases with 151 runs scored in 1937.
In 1941, DiMaggio set a record by hitting safely in 56 straight games, while leading the league in RBI and total bases and earning his second MVP award.
He was an All-Star for seven straight seasons between 1936-42, winning a pair of MVP awards, before he missed three full seasons while serving in the Army Air Force during World War II.
DiMaggio returned in 1946 and made six more All-Star appearances and was the AL MVP for a third time in 1947.
Slowed by a heel injury in 1949, DiMaggio played two more seasons before retiring at the end of the 1951 campaign.
In 13 seasons, he batted .325/.398/.977 with an OPS+ of 155 to go with 361 homers, 1,537 RBI and 1,390 runs scored … and scores of questions about what his numbers would have looked like with three full seasons in his prime from ages 28-30.
He played in 10 World Series over just 13 years in the majors, hitting .271/.338/.760 with eight homers and 30 RBI in 51 games.
DiMaggio disappeared from baseball for nearly two decades before coming back in 1968-69 as a coach with the Oakland Athletics.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955 and died March 8, 1999 from lung cancer at the age of 84.