The story of how Joe DiMaggio came to embody American Grace, style, power and skill is based on a modest man with passion for the game of baseball who lived a life devoted to achieving his personal best. While the word “celebrity” is the last thing with which Joe would identify, he became a larger-than-life celebrity with his never duplicated 56-game hitting streak that inspired a nation during rugged times.
Presidents, celebrities and world leaders wanted to know Joe. They were awe-struck by his ability to captivate baseball fans. Joe appealed even to those who had not before been interested in the game. There was just something special about Joe—the person—not just the player. Joe put his mark on American culture, which survives to this day.
His rags-to-riches story reveals a man with determination, perseverance and gracefulness on and off the playing field. The celebrity status didn’t come from “The Streak” alone; because throughout his life, when tested, Joe did the right thing. His achievements were not only for himself but for his community, those around him, whether teammates, family members or business associates.
It was this gracefulness that made him an American icon—someone people wanted to know and wanted to be.
Impact of Joe’s Celebrity
In the book, DiMaggio: Setting the Record Straight, Morris Engelberg and Marv Schneider write about the power of Joe’s celebrity:
“Turning DiMaggio into a moneymaking machine was not terribly difficult. His name and image were golden marketing tools. The Bowery and Mr. Coffee soon learned that. What astounded me was that Joe hadn’t realized this. ” (p. 109)
Joe’s modesty prevented him from seeing his own celebrity status, yet the impact could not be denied. In the 1970s, Joe was the spokesman for Mr. Coffee and continued to be the face for the electric coffee makers for more than twenty years. In addition, Joe spent twenty years as spokesman for The Bowery Savings Bank.
Even years later, in August 1993, Joe’s ability to put his mark on American culture was proven when he signed 1,941 bats for nearly $4 million. Dealers went on to sell some of those bats for $3,995 each (Engelberg & Schneider, p. 110). Engelberg and Schneider wrote, “The power of Joe’s signature as a moneymaker was spoken of in awe within the memorabilia industry.”
Although Joe is gone, the luster of his career remains bright and the attributes that made him a celebrity continue to inspire and impact culture.
Book: DiMaggio: Setting the Record Straight, Morris Engelberg & Marv Schneider