Born as Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio in Martinez, California on November 25, 1914, Joe DiMaggio was the fourth son and eighth child born to Sicilian immigrants Guiseppe and Rosalie DiMaggio. The couple had traveled to America in 1898, leaving behind the community of Isola delle Femmine off the coast of Sicily and the waters where the DiMaggios had been fishermen for generations.
DiMaggio’s father, Guiseppe, brought his family from Italy to the Martinez fishing community and then later, when Joe was one-year-old, to the Italian neighborhood North Beach in San Francisco in hopes of better fishing and an improved way of life for the family.
Because of the family business’s span over generations, Guiseppe hoped his sons would go with tradition and join him as fishermen. While Joe’s older brothers, Tom and Michael, followed in their father’s footsteps, Joe was uninterested. His disdain for the smell of dead fish and his desire to do anything to get out of cleaning the fishing boat did not go over well with Guiseppe, who was known to insult Joe with words like “good for nothing.”
Early Baseball Experiences
To get away from fishing, Joe and two of his brothers—older brother Vince and younger brother Dominic—took to the neighborhood sandlots. Joe had his first baseball experience at the age of ten, playing third base at the North Beach playground near their home by Fisherman’s Wharf.
In his autobiography, Lucky to be a Yankee, Joe explained it wasn’t that baseball was especially appealing to him, but it was better than helping his father on the boat.
It was no secret that Guiseppe was not a baseball fan and was vocal about his preference for the Italian game Bocci. Still, for the young DiMaggio the game was an excuse to get away from chores. Once his father gave up trying to get Joe away from baseball, Joe himself lost interest at the age of 14 and instead began selling newspapers. However, when Joe saw his brother Vince had been signed by the San Francisco Seals and was making money playing baseball, he decided to come back to the game.
In Lucky to be a Yankee, Joe said that Vince encouraged him to take the game more seriously and believed Joe was a good enough player to make money. From that moment of reentering the world of baseball, Joe proved he was committed to the game.
Joe’s childhood experience in baseball culminated with winning the championship in the Boys Club League with other kids from his neighborhood. During the championship game, Joe hit two home runs and was awarded his first payment: two gold baseballs and two orders for baseball merchandise worth $8 each.