Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baseball Brothers: The DiMaggios

Joe DiMaggio, Dom DiMaggio, and Vince DiMaggio were three of baseball's best centerfielders spanning the years from the Dust Bowl through the Korean War. The sons of Italian immigrants, they were born in California and grew up playing baseball. All three cut their teeth playing for the San Francisco Seals, a local minor league team (Double-A) in the Pacific Coast League, where their talents caught the eye of major league scouts. And so rather than becoming fishermen, as their father hoped, the brothers made their living playing America's national pastime instead.

Here's a brief look at their careers:

Joe (1936-1951)
The Yankee Clipper crammed a lot into his 13-year career. An All-Star every year, Joltin' Joe was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1955. His other achievements include nine World Series championships, three MVP awards, two batting titles, and one incredibly long hitting streak. With a resume like that, it's no wonder he was introduced as baseball's greatest living player until his death in 1999, long after it stopped being true.

Dom (1940-1953)
"The Little Professor" was every bit the centerfielder that Joltin' Joe was, earning comparisons to Tris Speaker for his ability to play shallow and still get back on deep fly balls. The youngest DiMaggio was also the ideal leadoff hitter, using his great speed and on-base ability to ignite the powerhouse Red Sox lineups of the late '40s and early '50s. Ted Williams always insisted his bespectacled teammate was Hall-worthy, and had DiMaggio not lost three prime seasons to World War II he'd have a plaque hanging in Cooperstown, too.

Vince (1937-1946)
The eldest and least talked about of the DiMaggio trio was said to be the fastest. He was also the least polished. His claim to fame is a dubious one: setting the NL record for strikeouts with 134 in 1938, one of six times he led the league in that department (weird considering that his two brothers rarely struck out). Not surprisingly, DiMaggio batted just .249 for his career, well below the league average of .267 during his playing days. Even so, the two-time All-Star was by no means a poor baseball player. In fact, he was a pretty good one, rating above average as a power-hitter, fielder, and baserunner. More importantly, he blazed the trail for his two younger brothers. It was Vince who convinced the Seals manager to give Joe a spot on the team (at shortstop), thereby launching Joe's professional career. Dom followed in their footsteps, breaking in with the Seals in 1937 after Joe and Vince reached the big leagues.

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