Hall of Fame: Joe DiMaggio (1955)

What could have been if WWII hadn’t come.

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+  TB   SH
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
1936 21 NYY AL 138 637 132 206 44 15 29 125 4 0 24 39 .323 .352 .576 128 367 3
1937 22 NYY AL 151 621 151 215 35 15 46 167 3 0 64 37 .346 .412 .673 168 418 2
1938 23 NYY AL 145 599 129 194 32 13 32 140 6 1 59 21 .324 .386 .581 139 348 0
1939 24 NYY AL 120 462 108 176 32 6 30 126 3 0 52 20 .381 .448 .671 184 310 6
1940 25 NYY AL 132 508 93 179 28 9 31 133 1 2 61 30 .352 .425 .626 173 318 0
1941 26 NYY AL 139 541 122 193 43 11 30 125 4 2 76 13 .357 .440 .643 184 348 0
1942 27 NYY AL 154 610 123 186 29 13 21 114 4 2 68 36 .305 .376 .498 147 304 0
1946 31 NYY AL 132 503 81 146 20 8 25 95 1 0 59 24 .290 .367 .511 142 257 3
1947 32 NYY AL 141 534 97 168 31 10 20 97 3 0 64 32 .315 .391 .522 154 279 0
1948 33 NYY AL 153 594 110 190 26 11 39 155 1 1 67 30 .320 .396 .598 163 355 0
1949 34 NYY AL 76 272 58 94 14 6 14 67 0 1 55 18 .346 .459 .596 178 162 0
1950 35 NYY AL 139 525 114 158 33 10 32 122 0 0 80 33 .301 .394 .585 151 307 0
1951 36 NYY AL 116 415 72 109 22 4 12 71 0 0 61 36 .263 .365 .422 116 175 0
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
13 Seasons 6821 2214 131 1537 9 369 .325 .398 .579 155 14
1736 1390 389 361 30 790 3948

3 MVP Awards (1939, 1941, 1947)
13 All-Star Games (1936-1942, 1946-1951)

Joseph Paul DiMaggio was born on Novermber 25, 1914 in Martinez, California. Though his father wanted him to be a fisherman like himself, the smell of fish made Joe nauseous, and he would often do whatever he could do get out of working on his father’s boat. In 1933, his older brother Vince convinced the manager of the San Francisco Seals to give Joe a try. Later that season, DiMaggio recorded a hit in 61 consecutive games. His legend was growing and the scouts were drooling, but then, DiMaggio tore the ligaments in his knee while at his aunt’s house. The injury scared teams away, but the Yankees still saw his potential. They bought him but allowed him to play for the Seals for another season in which he hit .398 with 34 HR and 154 RBI, making him the MVP of the league.

In 1936, the highly-touted DiMaggio didn’t disappoint, hitting .323 (though with a poor OBP in comparison, but I’m just nit-picking) with 29 HR and 125 RBI while setting rookie records in runs (132) and triples (15). He followed that season with an even better one. 46 HR and 167 RBI later, DiMaggio was the hit of the party. In his first four seasons, the Yankees won the World Series. Over his first five seasons, DiMaggio continued his brilliant play, getting close to hitting .400 (.381), hitting over 30 home runs in 3 of those seasons, and driving in over 100 in 4 of those seasons. In 1941, he had his unbelievable run of 56 consecutive games with a hit. Then, the Second World War hit, and DiMaggio enlisted in the army. Oddly enough, his parents, of Italian descent, were listed as enemy aliens and not allowed to travel and, worst of all, not fish in the San Francisco Bay as his father always had.

It’s impossible to know what DiMaggio could have done in the three seasons between his military service, but they were all his “prime” years, thus losing a lot of production. Regardless, he came back with a bang, hitting 25 HR and driving in 95. The next season, he brought back up his batting average and he won his third MVP Award. After another great season in 1948, he signed a record $100,000 contract, but injuries kept him from producing. Two seasons later, DiMaggio couldn’t take a step without pain, and after a Dodger scouting report accidentally became public, DiMaggio decided it was, indeed, time to retire. The once splendid center fielder could no longer tolerate the pain and his lack of contribution to his team.

Though he retired after the 1951 season, he wasn’t elected into the Hall of Fame until 1955 with 223 of the 251 votes (88.8%). I can’t fathom why it took them so long (he missed in 1954), especially considering he was such a fan-favorite.

An interesting side note: he was once traded with Yogi Berra for Ted Williams, but the deal fell through because the Yankees decided Berra was too much to give up.

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