Sometimes our heroes are our father's heroes.
My father's hero was Joseph Paul DiMaggio.
Both were born in 1914. My father
was an Italian American and Sicilian.
He grew up in the 30's when there still was a prejudice with anyone who's last name ended in a vowel.
Joe DiMaggio was the first Italian American who changed that. While many people first struggled to pronounce the name DiMaggio in 1939, my father and his friends had found their first role model.
I never saw Joe DiMaggio play baseball. I was born in 1951, a few months after his retirement from the Yankees.
Being from a large Sicilian family, holidays and weddings were occasions for the family to meet and swap stories. I would sit in the corner and listen. When the topic turned to baseball my father would open his wallet and take out the picture of his hero - Joe DiMaggio.
The 56 game hitting streak, big hits to beat the hated Red Sox, play-off games, home runs, and clutch catches were all detailed by my dad to anyone who would listen. All of his baseball stats were easily recalled by my dad.
Watching the news clips and television specials in black and white, it was easy to see the fluid grace and quiet gentle presence of the man.
It was easy to understand how Joe DiMaggio was such a great role model.
It was easy to make Joe DiMaggio my hero and role model.
My father passed on in 1969 when I was 16.
Over time, the life of the Great DiMaggio and my father seemed to intertwine. I moved to the San Francisco bay area in the late 70's.
I visited Joe DiMaggio's restaurant in San Francisco. I wished my dad could have been there with me at the bar for a drink and a story.
I touched the sleeve of Joe DiMaggio on opening day, 1981 at the Oakland Coliseum. I knew that my dad had never met his hero in person.
I saw Joe DiMaggio on the news, standing in line in San Francisco just after the 1989 earthquake. Just another citizen, caught up in the frenzy of panic. I thought of what my dad would think and what he would have been like at age 75.
Today I know two things......
Heaven's team has a new center fielder.
My dad has finally met his hero.
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