Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Joltin' Joe in the Bay Area

I wrote in my first post that I started collecting in 1989. Before that season, I didn't know any baseball players. I probably knew who Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Jose Canseco were. In fact, Canseco was my favorite player for the first couple of years I collected and I still like him a bit, despite everything he's done. So the name Joe DiMaggio meant nothing to me in the 1980s.

Joe DiMaggio was born in 1914 in Martinez, California, which today is about an hour from San Francisco. The family moved to the Marina district in San Francisco when Joe was a year old. He was supposed to become a fisherman, like his father, but didn't like it. His older brother Vince got him in with the San Francisco Seals, but Joe didn't care too much for baseball until his 61-game hitting streak in 1933. The rest is history, of course. Joe played 13 years, all with the Yankees, and reached the all star game every year he played (the only player to ever do so), winning the MVP award three times. He was enlisted in the air force from 1943-1945. Joe eloped with Marilyn Monroe in 1954. He was elected to the hall of fame in 1955.

DiMaggio's legacy can be seen around the city and the bay area. Most visible is a collection of memorabilia at the museum and a boat, the "Joltin' Joe," in Martinez. But Joe is best seen in the city. His family lived in a flat at 2047 Taylor Street, and he learned to play ball at the North Beach Playground. The Seals played at 16th and Bryant, and looking around the area can reveal a few signs of the old ballpark (look for the parking sign on a building in the area). In his adult years, you could find Joe at Liverpool Lil's in his own booth, and played golf at the Presidio. He would take walks on the Marina Green, and attended SS Peter and Paul's Church, where he married his first wife, and where his funeral was held. When he married Marilyn Monroe, it was done at City Hall.

Joe DiMaggio wasn't a showy guy, but he had class. He lived in a modest home in the Marina district in San Francisco, 2150 Beach Street. This is where my connection lies. I grew up in Santa Clara, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco, but would spend my summers with my grandma here in the city. A girl about my age lived in the house behind hers, and we became good friends. Her parents had connections somehow, and they knew a lot of people, including the Galoobs (the family that brought you the Game Genie). They also somehow were family friends of Joe DiMaggio, and somehow I ended up at his house, in the '80s, a smart-ass kid with no idea who Joltin' Joe was. I don't remember much but his house and walking to and from it, and sitting with him and my friend in his house. Despite the lack of details, this remains as one of my favorite memories.

Once the weather clears up (rain all week, hooray!) I'll head out and do a photo essay of the places mentioned in this post. So, what inspired this post? I was browsing the baseball section in my favorite used bookstore and saw a biography sitting on the shelf. Interesting how stuff just comes to mind, huh?

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