What we’re gonna do right here is go back. Waaay back. Back into time.
Each Friday, SiriusXM will help you reminisce, as we hop into a time machine and relive the great sports moments of the past. Both on the baseball diamond and off, we’ll try to bring you some interesting tidbits you might not have known.
The Life of “Joltin'” Joe DiMaggio
Before Jo DiMaggio became a cultural icon he was Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, born to Sicilian immigrants on Nov. 25, 1914 in Martinez, Calif. DiMaggio’s father had hoped his five sons would become fishermen like he was and he’d have them clean his boat, but little did he know one of them was a baseball virtuoso.
DiMaggio made his professional debut in 1932 for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. He hit safely in 61 straight games from May 27 to July 25, 1933, a PCL-record. The New York Yankees purchased his contract for $50,000 and DiMaggio made his major league debut on May 3, 1936. DiMaggio made an immediate impact, leading the Yankees to four straight World Series championships from 1936-1939, making him the only athlete in the history of American professional sports to win championships in each of his first four seasons. The Yankees won a total of nine titles in DiMaggio’s 13-year career.
DiMaggio is most known for his record 56-game hitting streak in 1941, which to this day is considered an unbreakable record. The closest anyone has ever come to his record is Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak in 1978. DiMaggio utilized a short swing to send line-drives to all sides of the field. He was not known as a power hitter, but it was widely believed that his home run numbers would have been higher if not for the deep center and left fields at Yankee Stadium that made it difficult for right-handed hitters to send the ball out of the park. DiMaggio finished with 361 homers, 213 of which came on the road as opposed to 148 at Yankee Stadium. His slugging percentage was .546 at home and .610 on the road.
DiMaggio earned the nickname “The Yankee Clipper” for the way he patrolled center field. His speed and range made it almost impossible for opposing hitters to get on base if a ball was hit in his direction. Longtime teammate Yogi Berra said, “He never did anything wrong on the field. I’d never seen him dive for a ball, everything was a chest-high catch, and he never walked off the field.” DiMaggio would retire in 1951 at the age of 37 due to various injuries. He finished with 2,214 hits, 1,537 RBIs, a .325 batting average, thee American League MVP awards and was selected to the All-Star game in each of his 13 seasons. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.
DiMaggio had been linked to a number of female celebrities in his life, but his most famous relationship was the one he shared with actress and model Marilyn Monroe. The two eloped in San Francisco on Jan. 14, 1954 but Monroe filed for divorce 274 days after the wedding and it was finalized in 1955. After not speaking for six years, DiMaggio secured her release from a psychiatric clinic in 1961 after she had suffered from depression. It is believed that DiMaggio had planned to ask her to remarry him in 1962, but Monroe was found dead in her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles on August 5 in an apparent suicide. DiMaggio claimed her body, arranged for her funeral and had red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for 20 years. Famously private, DiMaggio refused to talk about Monroe or their relationship publicly.
DiMaggio died at 84 on March 8, 1999 at his home in Hollywood, Florida due to complications from lung cancer. According to his lawyer and confidant, DiMaggio’s last words were, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
By 1999, 90s pop was at its height. Cher had the number-one song of the year, according to Billboard magazine, with her hit “Believe.” Teen-pop and dance-pop acts like Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin and others dominated the charts.
Blink-182’s Enema of the State album was an enormous commercial success and made the band the biggest pop-punk act of the year. Limp Bizkit also saw major success that year as a rap-metal act thanks to the single “Nookie.”
TLC was the top R&B act of the year with their 1999 album FanMail and the hit single “No Scrubs.” Female soul singers like Whitney Houston, Deborah Cox, Monica and Brandy and groups like Destiny’s Child, 702 and Total all spurned hit singles. Male acts like Brian McKnight, Maxwell, Tyrese, K-Ci & JoJo, Dru Hill and 112 all saw mainstream success.
Hip hop was in the midst of a golden age and 1999 was led by Jay Z and Eminem. Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP spawned hits like “My Name Is” and “Guilty Conscience.” Jay Z released Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter towards the end of the year and saw success with the hit single, “Big Pimpin’.”
Just for fun, check out these fast food commercials from 1999 to reminisce.
Next Friday we’ll look back on the day Michael Jordan ended his 17-month NBA retirement with his famous “I’m Back” press conference.
Want more baseball? Catch it all on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio.
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