The story of Joe DiMaggio’s personal life adds to the mystique that makes him the American icon he is today. People relate to this man who was not perfect, but lived life passionately and gracefully.
It was January 1937 when Joe met actress Dorothy Arnold on the set of the film Manhattan Merry Go-Round, confirming his celebrity status outside of the baseball diamond. Joe and Dorothy married at St. Peter and Paul Church in North Beach. More than twenty thousand people crowded inside and outside of the church to see the famous couple. It was reported that people even climbed onto tree branches and rooftops to see Joe and Dorothy leave the church following the ceremony.
While the couple had one son together—Joseph Paul DiMaggio II born on October 23, 1941—they were unable to make their marriage work. Joe and Dorothy divorced in 1944.
A Great American Love Story
The most publicized relationship for Joe began in 1952—a year after he had retired from the Yankees. A friend arranged a dinner date for Joe with up and coming actress Marilyn Monroe. They were at different places in their lives—Joe, retired, ready to settle down, and Marilyn, on her way to stardom, yet they commenced perhaps the greatest American love story with an 18-month courtship and then marriage on January 14, 1954 at San Francisco’s City Hall. The media called the union of Joe and Marilyn “The Marriage of the Century,” and their relationship captivated the nation.
After the wedding, Marilyn joined Joe in his home near San Francisco’s Wharf where they were often seen walking along the pier or fishing off of Joe’s boat, the “Yankee Clipper.” Like many great love stories, the stars’ relationship had many complexities—loving yet tumultuous. Their differences in personalities led to disharmony in the relationship, and Joe and Marilyn divorced less than a year after their wedding day.
The divorce did not mean an end to their story. Biographers have often noted that during difficult times in Marilyn’s life, even after she remarried, she would turn to Joe, because he was devoted, loving and dependable. There was speculation that the couple was reconciling prior to her death on August 5, 1962.
Joe proved his honorable character and his great love for Marilyn when he claimed her body after her death, took over the funeral arrangements, and had a dozen red roses delivered three times a week to her crypt for twenty years.
Joe’s marriage to Marilyn was his last and left an indelible mark on his life and American history.