TALES OF THE YANKEE CLIPPER
TALES OF THE YANKEE CLIPPER
by Jonathan Weeks
GENRE: NonFiction Sports Biography
There has probably never been a professional baseball player more of a puzzle than Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio had a talent for keeping his emotions suppressed and his innermost thoughts to himself. Few could say that they really knew him. And even the ones who did found him to be unpredictable. He was a walking contradiction. He was quiet, but not necessarily shy. He could be both gracious and abrupt, approachable or aloof depending on the situation. Although he came across as humble, he had a tremendous sense of entitlement. He was complex, secretive, inscrutable. There were many layers to the man who came to be affectionately known as the “Yankee Clipper.” DiMaggio always felt that his actions on the field should do the talking for him. And for the most part, they did. To many, DiMaggio personified elegance, style, and grace. An impeccable dresser, he was married to two glamorous actresses. On the field, he glided almost effortlessly, never having to dive for a ball and rarely (if ever) making a mistake on the basepaths. He became the living embodiment of the American dream and a symbol of the country’s so-called “greatest generation.” But as time marched on, DiMaggio grew increasingly distrustful of the people around him. It was understandable—inevitable even. The third book in Jonathan Week’s Yankees trilogy contains an abundance of anecdotes, statistics, and other little known facts about the Yankee Clipper.
Enjoy an Excerpt:
THE MEANING BEHIND MRS. ROBINSON
Among the most popular folk-rock duos of the 1960s, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel began writing songs together when they were in grade school. By the time they embarked upon solo careers during the 1970s, they had won ten Grammy Awards. Some of their highest charting hits included “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “The Sound of Silence,” and “Mrs. Robinson.” The latter song, which contains multiple lines about Joe DiMaggio, deeply offended the Yankee idol until he understood the meaning of the lyrics.
Released in 1968, “Mrs. Robinson” was written in reference to Eleanor Roosevelt, who Simon greatly admired. The tune was actually entitled “Mrs. Roosevelt” until the popular duo changed the name to make it fit the Academy Award-winning movie it was being featured in (The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft). “Mrs. Robinson” was a smash hit for Simon and Garfunkel, peaking at number-one on the Billboard charts and remaining there for several weeks. The four-minute musical masterpiece, which is about better days gone by, suggests that DiMaggio faded from the spotlight at a time when the American public needed him most. When the retired Yankee slugger heard about the lyrics, he believed that Simon was making him out to be some sort of deadbeat and threatened to sue.
As fate would have it, the two American icons had a chance encounter in Lattanzi’s restaurant on West 46th Street in New York. Simon, who was a lifelong Yankee fan, had heard about Joe’s beef with the song. Upon spotting the legendary Hall of Famer at a nearby table, he worked up the courage to say ‘hello.’ DiMaggio invited him to sit down and immediately started talking about Simon’s lyrics.
“What I don’t understand,” said Joe, “is why you ask where I’ve gone. I just did a Mr. Coffee commercial. I’m a spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bank and I haven’t gone anywhere.”
“I don’t mean it that way,” Simon explained. “I mean, where are these great heroes now?”
When DiMaggio realized that Simon considered him a hero and that the song was actually about how much he meant to people, he was flattered. The two shook hands and remained in each other’s good graces from that day forward. Interestingly, Simon was forced to explain himself to Mickey Mantle while taping an episode of The Dick Cavett Show. Mantle, who was actually Simon’s favorite player while growing up, asked the singer why he hadn’t used his name in place of DiMaggio’s. Simon explained that Mickey’s name had the wrong number of syllables.
About the Author:
Jonathan Weeks has written several sports biographies and two novels, one of which was a posthumous collaboration with his father. He grew up in the Capital District region of New York State and currently works in the mental health field.
Q&A With the Author:
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
This book completes a trilogy of New York Yankee biographies that I’ve been working on for quite awhile. I became a Yankee fan at a very young age. There have been so many great players over the years and I have always wanted to write about some of my favorites. The first two books in my trilogy weren’t difficult choices. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle were two of the most iconic players in baseball history and their stories still resonate with fans. But after completing those two biographies, I was left with a bit of a dilemma. Who should I choose to complete the trilogy? I wrestled with a few names—Lou Gehrig...Yogi Berra...Joe DiMaggio. All were immensely talented and left an indelible mark on the game. In the end, I chose DiMaggio—partly because he was somewhat of a mysterious character and partly because his career bridged the gap between Ruth and Mantle. In all, my trilogy covers more than fifty years of baseball history.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I learned so much about DiMaggio and his siblings. Joe wasn’t the only family member to play in the majors. Interestingly, his brothers Vince and Dominic were stars in their own right. Vince, who was older than Joe, spent ten years with five different clubs. He was a two-time All-Star. Dominic—the youngest of the DiMaggio clan—played portions of eleven seasons with the Red Sox, appearing on seven All-Star teams. Sibling trios in the majors are pretty rare and the DiMaggio’s were the best of the bunch. The topic of big league brothers is covered in detail in my book.
Do you have any other books you are working on that you can tell us about?
I recently completed a book about the World Series that will be released through Lyons Press next spring. That’s another topic that has always fascinated me. There have been so many memorable moments and so many unlikely heroes in October play. The book is about underdog teams that have captured World Series titles.
Can you tell us about what you have planned for the future?
I work as a counselor in the mental health field and I’m finishing up my career. I have about three years left. I plan to continue writing after I retire. I’ll still do nonfiction baseball stuff, but I also want to try my hand at another novel. To me, it’s quite a challenge. Currently, I’m working on another baseball project, but I’d like to keep that under wraps for now.
GOODREADS AUTHOR PAGE: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/5862273.Jonathan_Weeks
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