Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hall-of-Famer Joe Dimaggio a World Class Tightwad

Late Yankees great Joe Dimaggio was not only a Hall-of-Famer, hitter of historic proportions and a superstar outfielder, he was also a world class tightwad, according to former Baseball Commissioner Faye Vincent.

Vincent -- appearing in South Hadley, Conn., to promote a new book less than month before the beginning of induction week at Cooperstown, N.Y. -- said Dimaggio was magnetic not only on the field but off, and could be perfectly charming when he wanted. Dimaggio was especially endearing if you took him to an Italian restaurant and picked up the check, Vincent said.

"I told him once, I've never seen your wallet," said Vincent, quoted in Saturday's editions of The Republican in Springfield, Conn.

Vincent's book, "We Would Have Played for Nothing," a collection of interviews with baseball stars of the 1950s-60s, has no focus on Dimaggio's frugality. But among his acquaintances Dimaggio's stinginess was almost as well-known as his record 56-game hitting streak.

Despite considerable wealth, Dimaggio set aside time regularly to sign photographs and memorabilia at $100 a pop and more.

And Dimaggio was so tight-fisted that allowed he his asthmatic, alcoholic and drug addicted son Joe Jr. to live virtually penniless on the streets for years until finally granting him a modest, $1600 a month trust fund in a will probated only three years before Joe Jr.'s death.

His second wife -- actress Marilyn Monroe -- whom Dimaggio was known to secretly date even after their divorce, died more than $100,000 in debt though he regularly ordered fresh roses for her grave at Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.

New York newspapers once carried an account of Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner neglecting to leave instructions to admit Dimaggio at a Yankee Stadium ticket booth, so Dimaggio refused to pay and stomped off.