Richard Ben Cramer’s Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life depicts DiMaggio, especially in the last 10 or 15 years of his life, as a man consumed by his desire to make money. This usually took the form of appearance fees at memorabilia shows and other events, and special autograph deals to sign a certain number of cards, bats, and balls for a given company. The Mr. Coffee and Bowery Savings Bank commercials of the ’70s and ’80s were replaced by a more direct effort by Joe to cash in on his legend.
You get the sense, reading Cramer’s book, that Joe’s uncompromising attitude toward money-getting it and keeping it and avoiding spending it-derived in some sense from his childhood. Father Giuseppi was, if we believe Cramer, a close-mouthed Sicilian, wary of outsiders, hesitant to take risks, pessimistic, and, given his nine children, always aware of the difficulty of making ends meet. (On this note: in his book, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Fernand Braudel writes, “A double constraint has always been at the heart of Mediterranean history: poverty and uncertainty of the morrow. This is perhaps the cause of the carefulness, frugality, and industry of the people.”)
As Cramer describes it, when Vince leaves home to play baseball in Northern California and then in Arizona, Giuseppi can’t comprehend the value of playing the game, and considers Vince worthless. But, when Vince comes back from Arizona with $1500 cash, Giuseppi changes his mind about baseball.
Giuseppi’s attitude was apparently inherited by Joe and his brother Dominic, but in greatly amplified, savvier and much more ambitious form. There are a lot of places where you can read about Joe DiMaggio’s attitude toward money, but it’s worth noting that Dom was also very wealthy in his later life. A biography of Dom on the SABR site says:
Dominic found success after baseball, as well. In 1953, after he retired from baseball, he founded the American Latex Fiber Corporation along with two partners in Lawrence, Massachusetts. They produced padding for ammunitions packaging, boxcar insulation, and furniture and mattress padding. Dom later bought out his partners and began producing seat padding for the automotive industry. In 1961, he purchased a fire-ravaged company in Pennsylvania and merged the companies to form a new corporation: the Delaware Valley Corporation, and expanded production to include innovative products for the medical, construction, marine and RV industries. The company is still operated by a Dom DiMaggio, although now it is in the hands of eldest son Dominic, Jr.
After Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey died in 1976, DiMaggio headed a group of New England businessmen who put together an offer to purchase the Red Sox. The trust set up to handle the disposition of the ballclub rebuffed a number of offers, in which prospective applicants had invested considerable time and money, leaving a sense that the Haywood Sullivan group had had the inside track all along, resulting a sense of estrangement that lasted for a number of years.
Among other commercial ventures, Dom was involved in the operation of DiMaggio’s Restaurant on famed Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco, and in real estate on both coasts. He was co-founder of the Boston Patriots football franchise, and he has actively supported numerous charities.
An obituary of Dom following his death in May 2009 added: “Later in his life, Dominic used another talent – as a lover of mathematics – to help him in a successful business career. “The stock market was his passion,” his son, Dominic Paul, told the Associated Press. “He’d watch the stock ticker all day and the Red Sox all night.”
A poster on the Red Sox fan site, Sons of Sam Horn, remembered one contact with Dom, writing:
I babysat for Dom’s grandson. His name is Andrew – he goes by DiMaggio Gates – and he’s going to be attending UVM this Fall for a PhD in politics.
Anyway, he was visiting his grandparents for a day. They lived somewhere down on the South Shore/Cape area. I can’t remember. One of you might know, actually. Anyway, Andrew gets done at his grandparents’ boat club, so we go back to their house. Dom is INCREDIBLY friendly – almost frighteningly so. He says Andrew’s mother has said a bunch of nice things about me, he asks me about college, stuff like that. At the time, he was set up with an ice tea in his living room watching CNBC or Bloomberg. He explained that he had made the vast majority of his money AFTER his playing days, and that he and some other players had taken after looking for older ballplayers who hadn’t saved for their later years. We talked about baseball and the stock market for fifteen or twenty minutes.
And, a recent article on the DiMaggio brothers says of Dom: “His integrity was unquestioned, and he volunteered as the A.L. representative working on the players’ behalf before their union was formed. Dom was ahead of his time when he declared himself a free agent after his military service. The panicked Boston front office persuaded him to sign a contract before the 1946 season by giving him a percentage of the gate at Fenway Park, the same arrangement it had secretly made with Williams.
“After he retired, Dom became a successful textile manufacturer who gave a lot of time to raise millions of dollars for charities in the Boston area. Although smaller than Joe in stature and in the baseball record books, Dom cast quite a long shadow himself.”
In his book, Cramer describes Dom and Joe as being somewhat estranged for much of their lives, but along with the parallels between their financial lives, they also both lived in Florida. Dominic DiMaggio died on May 8, 2009, at the age of 92, at his home in Marion, Massachusetts, but he maintained a second home in Florida, where he wintered. Joe DiMaggio had died in Hollywood, Florida, on March 8, 1999, and spent a great deal of time in Florida and Southern California following the end of his baseball career.
And given that, it’s also worth noting that the oldest of the DiMaggio baseball brothers, Vince, died in North Hollywood, CA, of cancer of the colon, on October 3, 1986. All three brothers used baseball as a chance to move to warm, tourist settings and, in Vince and Joe’s case, to live among Hollywood celebrities. According to his L.A. Times obituary, Vince was a salesman in a variety of fields after his baseball career, and he had been married to wife Madeline for almost 54 years at the time of his death. In this, he was like Dom, who at his death had been married to wife Emily for 61 years, not like Joe.