When the Red Sox Signed DiMaggio

On Tuesday came word of the death of Hall of Famer and Red Sox great, Bobby Doerr. Today, a look back at one of Doerr’s teammates and friends. 

Hear the name DiMaggio and you’re likely to think of Joe, the Hall of Famer, three-time MVP, the Yankee Clipper. The guy who appeared in nine World Series, about whom songs were sung and with whose help millions of coffee pots were sold.

But nearly 80 years ago this week the Red Sox introduced the world to another DiMaggio, a younger one, who would go on to play with distinction for 11 big league seasons, all of them in a Boston uniform. This is the story of Dominic DiMaggio, the bespectacled, 5-foot, 9-inch “Little Professor,” who became one of baseball’s greatest centerfielders.

Big brother Joe was already a major league centerfielder—and so was older brother Vince—when the Red Sox paid $40,000 on November 12, 1939 (what amounts to over $700,000 in today’s money) to acquire Dom from the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. Together, Joe, Vince, and Dom would become the most formidable three brothers in baseball history.

Always A Red Sox

Dom DiMaggio played exclusively in the Red Sox organization (1940 to 1953, including three years out of baseball for service to his country). He was a seven-time All-Star (tied for the 9th-most of all Red Sox ever) and holds to this day several Boston franchise records, including the most Opening Day starts in center field (9) and the most single-season putouts by a Boston outfielder (503 in 1948). Always an excellent defender, over his career DiMaggio led the American League in assists three times, putouts twice, and double plays twice.

In his outstanding 1950 season, DiMaggio hit .328 with an MLB-best 131 runs and an AL-best 15 stolen bases and 11 triples. In that same season he matched Johnny Pesky’s club-record from four years earlier for the most hits in a single month (56), a record that still has not been broken.

Durable DiMaggio is one of just 25 players for all-time who played in every game of a regular season for the Red Sox, working all 155 contests of the 1948 season. Eight years after Joe’s MLB-best 56-game hitting streak in 1941, Dom went 51-for-145 (.352) in a 34-game streak that still stands as a Boston club record. In a quirk of fate, the streak ended when, in a 9th-inning at-bat against the Yankees, Dom flew out to his brother, Joe.

DiMaggio (along with Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Ted Williams) was one of four Red Sox to be All-Star starters in 1946, the most such players in club history (also 1949). The four teammates and lifelong friends are forever immortalized in a statue outside Fenway Park that was unveiled June 9, 2010.

Among Red Sox who played at least as many games as DiMaggio (1,399), Dom ranks 4th-best in career on-base percentage (.383) and 5th-best in career AVG (.298). He has the 8th-most runs (1,046) and walks (750), 9th-most doubles (308) and total bases (2,363) and 10th-most hits (1,680) of all players in franchise history.

Among all hitters since 1913 at Fenway Park, DiMaggio ranks 7th for walks (415), 8th for runs (592), triples (32), tied for 8th for stolen bases (57), and 9th for at-bats (2,828), hits (913), and doubles (181).

Right To The End

After his playing career ended in 1953, DiMaggio was a successful businessman and restaurateur. He was a cofounder of the Boston (now New England) Patriots football franchise and even tried, according to The Society for American Baseball Research, in an unsuccessful bid to purchase the Red Sox after owner Tom Yawkey’s death in 1976.

Dominic Paul DiMaggio was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995, but hasn’t made it to Baseball’s grandest Hall, even though Ted Williams endorsed him for admission. “Dom saved more runs as a centerfielder than anybody else,” Williams told Sports Illustrated in 2001. “He should be in the Hall of Fame.”

DiMaggio died at age 92 in his home in Massachusetts just after midnight on May 8, 2009. His son told ESPN his dad was watching a replay of that night’s Red Sox game when he passed away.

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