BOSTON – Dominic DiMaggio, the bespectacled Boston Red Sox center fielder who was overshadowed by his older brother Joe’s spectacular career, died early Friday. He was 92.
DiMaggio was surrounded by his family at his death at his Massachusetts home, according to his wife, Emily. She did not give a cause of death but said that DiMaggio had been ill lately.
“He was the most wonderful, warm, loving man,” his wife of 61 years said. “He adored his children, and we all adored him.”
DiMaggio was a seven-time baseball All Star who still holds the record for the longest consecutive game hitting streak in Boston Red Sox history.
Known as the “Little Professor” because of his eyeglasses and 5-foot-9 (1.75 m), 168-pound (76 kg) frame, DiMaggio hit safely in 34 consecutive games in 1949. The streak was broken on Aug. 9 when his big brother caught a sinking line drive in the eighth inning of a 6-3 Red Sox win over the New York Yankees.
The younger DiMaggio also had a 27-game hitting streak in 1951, which still ranks as the fifth longest in Red Sox history. Joe set the major league record with a 56-game hitting streak with the Yankees in 1941 and was elected to the sport’s Hall of Fame.
The oldest of the three center field-playing DiMaggio brothers was Vince, who had a 10-year major league career with five National League teams. Joe died in March 1999, while Vince died in October 1986.
Dom DiMaggio spent his entire career with the Red Sox, 10 full seasons plus three games in 1953. He was teammates and close friends with Red Sox greats Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky.
While Dom did not have the batting numbers of Joe, he was generally regarded as a better defensive player with a stronger arm.
He was a career .298 hitter with 87 home runs, while Joe was a .325 career hitter with 361 homers. Dom’s baseball career was interrupted for three years (1943-45) by World War II when he served in the Navy, a military obligation that may have cost him induction into the Hall of Fame.
On June 30, 1950, Dom and Joe DiMaggio homered in the same game, the first time brothers had hit homers in the same game in the majors in 15 years. They played in the outfield together in three All-Star games.
Dom played a pivotal role in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, a heartbreaker for Boston fans. He batted in two runs in the eighth inning to tie the game at 3, but he injured his leg while running the bases and was replaced in center field by Leon Culberson for the ninth.
It was Culberson who fielded Harry Walker’s double and threw it to Pesky during Enos Slaughter’s famous “Mad Dash” from first to home that won the game for the Cardinals.
Many argued that if DiMaggio had still been in center he would have handled the play better and prevented Slaughter from scoring.
After the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, their first since 1918, DiMaggio, Pesky and Doerr were on hand on opening day 2005 to raise the championship banner at Fenway Park.
DiMaggio grew up in San Francisco, one of nine children born to Sicilian immigrants. His mother was a teacher and his father was a fisherman. He is survived by his wife and three children, Dominic Paul, Peter and Emily.