Dom DiMaggio

12 Feb 1917
8 May 2009
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Dominic Paul “Dom” DiMaggio (February 12, 1917 – May 8, 2009), nicknamed “The Little Professor”, was an American Major League Baseball center fielder. He played his entire 11-year baseball career for the Boston Red Sox (1940–1953). He was the youngest of three brothers who each became major league center fielders, the others being Joe and Vince.

An effective leadoff hitter, he batted .300 four times and led the American League in runs twice and in triples and stolen bases once each. He also led AL center fielders in assists three times and in putouts and double plays twice each; he tied a league record by recording 400 putouts four times, and his 1948 totals of 503 putouts and 526 total chances stood as AL records for nearly thirty years. His 1338 games in center field ranked eighth in AL history when he retired. His 34-game hitting streak in 1949 remains a Boston club record.

He was the youngest of three brothers who each became major league center fielders: Joe was a star with the rival New York Yankees, and Vince played for five National League teams. The youngest of nine children born to Sicilian immigrants, Dom’s small stature (5’9″) and eyeglasses earned him the nickname “The Little Professor.

After breaking into the minor leagues in 1937 with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, Dom DiMaggio’s contract was purchased by the Red Sox following a 1939 season in which he batted .361; he hit .301 in his 1940 rookie season, becoming part of a .300-hitting outfield with Ted Williams and Doc Cramer. In both 1941 and 1942 he scored over 100 runs to finish third in the AL, and was among the league’s top ten players in doubles and steals; he was named an All-Star both years. After missing three years serving in the Navy in World War II, he returned in 1946 with his best season yet, batting .316 to place fifth in the league, and coming in ninth in the MVP voting as Boston won its first pennant in 28 years. Batting third, he hit only .259 in the 1946 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but was almost a Series hero for Boston. With two out in the eighth inning of Game 7, he doubled to drive in two runs, tying the score 3-3; but he pulled his hamstring coming into second base, and had to be removed for a pinch runner. The result was costly, as Harry Walker doubled to center field in the bottom of the inning, with Enos Slaughter scoring from first base in his famed “Mad Dash” to win the game and Series for St. Louis; had DiMaggio remained in the game, Walker’s hit might have been catchable, or the outfielder’s strong arm might have held Slaughter to third base. “If they hadn’t taken DiMaggio out of the game”, Slaughter later said of his daring sprint, “I wouldn’t have tried it.”

In 1978 he was named a member of the Board of Trustees at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. He served under Presidents Father Peter and Father Jonathan DeFelice and helped lead Saint Anselm College through four decades of expansion; he was awarded an honorary degree in 1999.

Writer David Halberstam described Dom as “probably the most underrated player of his day.”

DiMaggio died on May 8, 2009 at his home in Marion, Massachusetts.He was 92 years old and had been suffering from pneumonia.

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