Joe Dimaggio’s 100th Birthday


Joe Dimaggio would have been 100 years old today had he not died back in 1999 at the age of 84. Now, before you scroll down to the comments to scream at me that this is an Athletics site and that I shouldn’t be pandering to Yankees fans, read this little fact: Joe Dimaggio, yes the one that Kramer saw at the doughnut shop, was a member of our beloved Oakland Athletics.

In 1968, when the Athletics moved to Oakland, Charlie Finley was desperate to draw some attention to the relocated franchise and had convinced the Yankee Clipper to wear the old green and gold, the only other major league baseball uniform Dimaggio would ever wear.

Wearing number 5, Joe Dimaggio was officially hired as the Executive Vice President and was a consultant on a team that included future hall of famers Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and Tony La Russa. What would bring a New York legend out of a 17 year retirement?Money.

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In order to earn the maximum pension allowed by the players union, Joe Dimaggio needed two more years of major league service, a feat he would have accomplished had his career not been interrupted by three years of military service during the second world war. Finley, who needed to build some attention around his team, managed to get the Martinez native to act as a coach for two seasons in order to fulfill his pension requirements.

Over the years, little has been made of Joe Dimaggio’s involvement with the team. He is rarely, if ever, acknowledged in Oakland Athletics literature, no pictures adorn the halls of the coliseum and his name is never mentioned ceremonially when counting “hall of fame” players that have walked our concrete halls.

This could, in part, be out of respect for his New York legacy or it could be that his time in Oakland was so ceremonial that it doesn’t deserve mention. Being the first hitting coach for the Oakland Athletics who, following his departure, were about to go on a five year division winning dynasty run, should deserve a bit more attention than it has received over the years.

The impact that Joe Dimaggio had on baseball and popular culture can never be over stated and, in true Oakland fashion, we managed to get our hands on a little bit of the legacy, right at the end before it was too late and for as cheap as possible. Rest in peace, Joe.