Home MLB Dominic DiMaggio: 1917-2009

Dominic DiMaggio: 1917-2009

by Matt Smith

The sad news announced yesterday that Dominic DiMaggio had passed away compelled me to fetch my copy of David Halberstam’s The Teammates from the shelf. 

It’s a touching, wonderful book that takes on extra significance right now.  The Teammates is built around a trip undertaken by DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky to see Ted Williams in October 2001, knowing that it would probably be the last time they would see their friend alive.  Halberstam explores the lives of these ballplayers as their mortality, and the reader’s own, becomes achingly apparent. 

Three main thoughts come to my mind. 

Firstly, Dom DiMaggio was a very good ballplayer.  A person will often be compared to their siblings, particularly when their lives take similar paths.  However to diminish Dom’s achievements because they don’t match up to Joe’s would be grossly unfair.  That sentiment stands whether you are comparing statistics or following a line of thinking that the DiMaggio name actually made him seem more than he really was.  Judged on his own, Dom DiMaggio undoubtedly made his mark on America’s National Pastime.

Secondly, by all accounts he was as good a person as he was a ballplayer.  Halberstam notes the struggles DiMaggio faced due to suffering from Paget’s Disease.  He was able to undergo experimental treatment that made the condition easier to live with, but unselfishly he turned his struggles into a force for good:

“At first he was reticent about stepping forward and calling attention to the disease, but as he became aware of the damage it was doing to those less fortunate than he and his admiration for his doctors grew, he became one of the principal spokesman for those fighting the disease”.

Finally, while the death of a loved one is always cause for great sorrow, it’s also a time to reflect on the life he or she led.  The closing section of The Teammates poignantly sums up the lives of Dom and his three Boston teammates:

“When Bobby Doerr and Dominic DiMaggio talked about their lives, it was with the same tone as John [Pesky], with an appreciation – indeed a gratitude – for their good fortune, and a sense that although they had prospered, the best part, the richest part, of their lives had little to do with material things, and that they had lived their lives with few regrets”.

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