Joe D. Diary is Diamond in the Rough

The New York Post / Dan Kadison
July, 2007

Joe DiMaggio kept a diary. Think of that for a moment.

Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio hobnobbed with superstars and even bedded Marilyn Monroe - but he spent some of the last years of his life chronicling every mundane moment in a stunning diary unveiled yesterday.

In what's being billed as the grand slam of artifacts about the former Yankee great, DiMaggio laboriously jotted down details about his daily life in more than 2,000 pages of handwritten notes between 1982 and 1993.

The diary, bound in 29 volumes, went on the auction block yesterday for a minimum bid of $1.5 million. The diary shows that while he married Monroe and set baseball's record 56-game hitting streak, the legendary slugger wasn't beyond recording what he ate one day in February 1992 - and even the $7 tip he left the waitress.

"I . . . took off for my place after having chicken hamburger . . . watched TV and called it a dull day. Food/Lounge: $38; Tip: $7," DiMaggio penned for his entry dated "Saturday, February 1, 1992: At Miami's La Gorce Golf Club."

Startlingly honest and downright odd at times, the diary also shows that when Regular Joe wasn't bemoaning the price of a taxi to and from Old Timer's Day in July 1989 - $35 - he was taking a swing at overzealous fans and stressing over finding the right neck-sized shirt for a White House dinner with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

"Went out and shopped for a tuxedo shirt as I have lost so much weight my neck size is 15-1/2. Spent a couple of hours trying to find one," DiMaggio wrote in a two-page entry on stationary from the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C., on "Thursday, Dec. 8, 1987."

The most that the privacy-obsessed DiMaggio said about Monroe - his ex-wife and the love of his life - was what he didn't want to be revealed in his then-upcoming authorized biography.

"Will not reveal anything in a negative way towards Marilyn," DiMaggio wrote in an entry dated "Friday, April 28, 1989."

But DiMaggio had plenty of things to say about the company that doled out his later-in-life paycheck. In an entry dated "Thursday, May 16, 1985," an obviously disgruntled DiMaggio talks about a phone call he had just had with a Mr. Coffee exec who "wanted to know if I received the contracts."

"Finally, after I gave him a few barbs, I told him that I did receive them. When he asked me what I thought of them, I told him I wiped my a- - with them," DiMaggio sniped.

The baseball legend was equally as disgusted with fans.

In 1991, the 50th anniversary of his historic hitting streak, DiMaggio griped about having to attend an upcoming fund-raiser in New York.

"This one will be the start of invitations which number at least 6 banquets to be honored due to the 50 years of 56-game hitting streak," DiMaggio wrote "Monday, January 14, 1991."

"If I thought this would be taking place due to the streak, I would have stopped hitting at 40 games."

And after Old Timer's Day in 1989, DiMaggio said: "As usual, it was a zoo with the collectors and other people seeking autographs.

"Must have signed at least 300 for Old Timers, present day players and everybody that was in the clubhouse and it was packed. I don't know why I allow myself all this stress.

"But I have made up my mind that after I make my last appearance in Dallas . . . that I will not do it again - save but one, that being in New York on a reserved basis. It no longer is that people want one ball signed. All have two to three or four. Even Sparky Anderson sent a dozen over for me to sign.

"Was introduced and went out to center field to put a memorial wreath on Lou Gehrig's monument. Went up to Steinbrenner's box to watch game and have a breath of peace. Left at 7th inning once again . . . being pushed around until getting in car for hotel . . . Food: $25; Taxis: $35; Tips: $12."

But while he appeared to be less than enthusiastic about the honors bestowed on him through the years, it was clear that his biggest love of all remained baseball.

In a bare-bones entry dated Oct. 27, 1986, DiMaggio noted he had just received the Medal of Honor from the Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

Then he added sadly, "Missed the last game of the World Series. Back to Hasbrouck Heights [N.J.] hotel at 10 p.m. Saw the end of baseball on TV."

Jared Weiss, president of Steiner Sports, which bought the diaries from DiMaggio's lawyer, said, "He was really upset that he missed the last game. He was just a big sports fan."

Weiss hopes to net up to $3.5 million for the DiMaggio diaries.

He said the entries show that DiMaggio, who died March 8, 1999, was "very misunderstood."

"I think the pressures of being Joe DiMaggio - from not being able to go to a restaurant to not being able to fall asleep on an airline flight without being woken up for an autograph - I think it wore him down. It overwhelmed him and consumed him, and he was exhausted," Weiss said.

"Extremely meticulous, between going to church, between making sure his clothes were perfectly tailored, between making sure his hair was perfectly kempt, he was a very proud man," Weiss said. "As you know, in Joe's reputation, he was a little bit cheap.

"But he grew up in a Depression-era of this country. That's all he knew. He was very protective of that and always was careful."

DiMaggio's fellow Yankee Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, who attended yesterday's press conference at Gallagher's Steakhouse to kick off the auction, said he was stunned to learn that his old pal kept a diary.

"I'm shocked. I couldn't get an autograph off him," Ford said.

But "I really liked Joe," Ford said. "I know he was shy. I really got to know him better after baseball . . . He loved to play golf, so we played golf an awful lot together. Somebody said he was cheap. But if you ever won money from him in golf, it was pretty tough to collect."


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