This is the grave of Dom DiMaggio.
Born in San Francisco in 1917, DiMaggio of course grew up in the one of the nation’s great baseball families. His brother Joe was simply one of the greatest hitters of all time and Vince was a journeyman who had a good long career. Dominic was the youngest of nine children born to Sicilian immigrants. He was just a little guy, only 5’9″, and he wore glasses, but the Little Professor would be a very valuable player.
DiMaggio started playing for the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League in 1937. The Boston Red Sox bought his contract in 1939, after a really great season. He debuted with the Red Sox in 1940, hitting .301/367/464 in a quality rookie year. He didn’t have much power and he didn’t have much speed, but he was a quality contact guy. He finished third in runs in both 1941 and 1942. But then he lost the prime of his career, from 1943-45, to World War II. He enlisted in the Navy after the 1942 season and became a petty officer third class. He was deployed to Australia and then the Philippines at the end of the war, but really, he was more of a baseball player than a soldier, flying around to play in all-star games among the major leaguers who were now soldiers. Of course it’s important to keep up morale.
In 1946, DiMaggio returned to the major leagues. He hit .316/393/427 and was ninth in the MVP voting. He slipped some in 1947, but came back with a series of pretty solid seasons from 1948-52. In 1950, DiMaggio led the league in triples with 10 and stolen bases, with only 15, which doesn’t seem right, but so it is. He led the league in runs in 1951 with 113. He made the All-Star Game in 1941-42, 1946, and 1949-52. Still, 1952 was not a great year. In 1953, he tried to come back but retired with after only three at-bats. He was also an excellent defensive outfielder and his career average of 2.98 chances per game, which remains the AL record for outfielders.
After DiMaggio retired, he went into the plastics industry. The writer David Halberstam later wrote a book about the Red Sox teams of these years where he called DiMaggio the most underrated player of his generation. I don’t know. He was a good player but he ranks at the 76th best center fielder of all time according to Baseball Reference’s JAWS category. Even given that he lost three good years, he’s still not probably more than the 50th best player at the position.
DiMaggio died in 2009 in Marion, Massachusetts. He was 92. It was pneumonia that killed him.
Dom DiMaggio is buried in Newton Cemetery, Newton, Massachusetts.
If you would like this series to cover other center fields, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Chick Stahl, who played mostly for the Red Sox in the first decade of the twentieth century and who is 75th on the Baseball Reference, is in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Benny Kauff, who is 78th on the list, and who was a good hitter in the late 1910s for the Giants, is in Columbus, Ohio. Previous posts in this series are archived here.