In 1954, my parents and I drove from Claremont to Boston to attend my cousin Jeff’s bar mitzvah. I sat in the back seat, complaining much of the way about how long it was taking (this was before Route 89, not to mention 93). I was still mourning the departure of the Braves from Boston the previous year but had begun my lifelong addiction to the Red Sox. What a nuisance to have to drive such a distance, get dressed up, and miss listening to Saturday’s game.
We stayed at a hotel and went to the ceremony the next morning, in Dorchester I think. I knew that my cousin’s father was friendly with baseball players. What I didn’t know was that “The Little Professor,” Dominic DiMaggio, who had retired as the Red Sox center fielder at about the same time as the Braves left town, was now in business with my cousin’s uncle. Dom was one of my heroes—we used to sing, “Who’s better than his brother Joe? Dominic DiMaggio.” I don’t remember seeing him at the synagogue.
But I do remember seeing him at the Copley Plaza Hotel luncheon that followed. He and his wife, Emily, were not only there but were seated at my table! Or perhaps we were seated at his. Longings to be in Claremont immediately vanished.
I have no memory of what they served for lunch, or what the adults talked about, but I do recall one thing—the question that I asked. Just imagine—a 14-year old boy meeting Dom DiMaggio and actually being able to speak with him. Did I ask him about what it was like to be a big league player, playing alongside Ted Williams? Or about the unfortunate 1948 season (Cleveland won the playoff game for the pennant)? Or about the equally unhappy 1949 outcome (the Yankees won)?
No, I did not. My question, the question any 14 year-old boy from New Hampshire would naturally ask, was, “Have you met her?” The “her,” of course, was Marilyn Monroe, brother Joe’s new wife. I remember the answer: “Not yet. We’re going down to New York next week.”
That is the closest I ever got to Marilyn Monroe. But I did meet up with Dom and Emily DiMaggio, now in their 80s, just a year or so ago, at a benefit in Boston. I walked over to them and said I wanted to re-introduce myself. I then told them we had sat together at my cousin’s bar mitzvah, 50 years before. Dom looked me in the eye and said, “Joe, you haven’t changed a bit!” I thought to myself, I’ll bet he could still play center field.
When I gave my cousin’s name, they remembered being there. I asked whether they remembered the question I had asked. No, they admitted they didn’t. So, I refreshed their memories: “Have you met her?”
Emily DiMaggio said it all. “Oh … Marilyn.”