Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: D is for…

DiMaggio, as in Dom

I’ve often wondered what it’s like to be Dom DiMaggio. Imagine being a ball-player. Pretty cool, right? Now, imagine being a very good ballplayer, borderline Hall-of-Famer even. That’s just amazing. You have a brother who plays in the majors, and you’re better than him. Wonderful. That has to be a dream of some sort. But, then, you have another brother, Joe DiMaggio. You could cure cancer, and not quite get out from under his shadow. You could even convince yourself that you’re a better outfielder than he is, but it wouldn’t help. Then, to make matters worse, you find yourself a best friend on your team and pick Ted Williams. Why would you do that? No matter where he went, he was the second best part of the duo. If you went out with your best friend and your brother, you’d be that other guy getting in the picture. Amazing.

Obviously, I don’t remember seeing Dom DiMaggio play. He retired before my parents were born. But, I have stumbled upon him here and there. For me his recent passing cut yet another link, maybe a last link, to the past glory days for the Sox. I know Pesky is still around, but I always thought of DiMaggio as the elder statesman for the Sox. Maybe it’s because Pesky is around so much, I think of him as a current Sox. But, since Williams’s passing, I always thought of DiMaggio as the link to the great teams of the 40’s.

There have been a couple instances when I’ve been at Fenway, and they’ve had greats of the past on hand. One I remember was the Red Sox 100th Anniversary celebration. They had a ceremony before a game that year where they invited all kinds of players. Each player took his position in the field. From the bleachers, my closest view was of DiMaggio in center. You could tell he moved a little slower than the others out there. It just cemented the fact that his attendance was just a little bit more special than Mike Andrews or Luis Tiant. It was pretty cool to see the distinguished “little professor” in his old position.

Another time I saw Dom at Fenway was during Ted Williams’s memorial celebration. Once again, DiMaggio was there as a link to the glorious past. Again, he was slower than some other players as we went about honoring Ted. I also remembered that his speech was the most passionate. Every speaker spoke of how wonderful Ted was, and how lucky he was to know him. But Dom was really speaking from the heart. He spoke out against the way Ted’s body was being handled with the energy of a man much younger than he. It was moving to see a good friend take his chance to right what he felt was a great wrong. It made me hope to one day have a friend like Dom DiMaggio.

It’s one of the things that I always loved about being a Red Sox fan. There was a history there. It wasn’t a group of people that stopped by to play for a ring. To be a Red Sox player meant something to people, and Dom DiMaggio always seemed to define that for me. I’ll miss seeing him at the park.

D is for DiMaggio, Dom

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