For all of his accomplishments—and there were plenty—Dom DiMaggio never could quite escape the shadow of his older brother. "It followed me all through my major league career. The Joe DiMaggio legend was just too strong," he said. But Dom, who died last Thursday at age 92, gave it a hell of a fight. For much of his career, spent entirely with the Red Sox, he was considered the second-best centerfielder in the American League. The best was Joe. In 1949 Dom hit in 34 straight games. No American Leaguer would hit in more until 1987. Still, Dom's run paled alongside Joe's 56 in '41.
Dom's size (5'9", 160-odd pounds), appearance (one of the first men to play wearing glasses) and nickname (the Little Professor) all belied his athleticism. No one—not Joe, not Ted Williams—had more hits than Dom's 1,679 from 1940 through '52, the span of his 10-year career (minus three years in the service). But it was in the field that Dom truly stood out. He had a tremendous arm, averaging nearly 15 assists per season, and the wheels to run down anything hit his way. In Game 7 of the '46 World Series, Dom drove in two runs to tie the game in the top of the eighth but had to be lifted after he turned an ankle running the bases; in the bottom half of the inning Enos Slaughter scored from first on a base hit to center handled by Dom's replacement, Leon Culberson. "If they hadn't taken DiMaggio out of the game, I wouldn't have tried it," said Slaughter of his mad dash.
"[DiMaggio] was as good a centerfielder as I ever saw," said Williams, who played next to him in left for Dom's entire career. "He saved more runs as a centerfielder than anybody else. He should be in the Hall of Fame." Williams was so insistent on that point that for years pamphlets were available at the Ted Williams Museum, in Hernando, Fla., titled Why Dom DiMaggio Belongs in the Hall of Fame. He never made it.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
A walk-off home run in a Minnesota junior college softball tournament game was disallowed after the opposing coach complained that the batter received high fives before crossing the plate.
NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (DIMAGGIO)
REGULARS Dom (right) was on six AL All-Star teams with Joe (left) and Williams.