Tuesday, November 25, 2014
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE. SOMEONE THINKS YOU'RE NOT THAT GREAT
Today is Joe DiMaggio's birthday. A great hitter, a great Yankee and a great American serving in the United States military during his baseball career.
John Harper of the New York Daily News has a piece out in which he speaks to a baseball historian, John Thorn, and Thorn has some pretty eye opening things to say about our Yankee hero. Let's just say I didn't expect it, especially on Joe's 100th birthday:
"There is this image of the Yankee Clipper sailing so gracefully in the outfield that he never had to dive for a ball...But the reality is that his contemporaries recorded more putouts... There is a trend toward baseball analytics now and the more you apply them, the more you chip away at the DiMaggio myth. On his 100th birthday you can still call him an all-time great but he was not the peerless center fielder he was made out to be."
"If you could magically teleport him to today’s game,’’ said Thorn, “he would not be the same player. In 1969 he was voted baseball’s greatest living player. Today we would find that hilarious, considering that Ted Williams and Willie Mays were alive at the time... Their reality is closer to the myth. They were all greater players than DiMaggio in my estimation."
“Baseball is our national religion... And belief in DiMaggio is a central tenet. I’m not pooh-poohing him. It’s just that he has been the subject of so much apotheosis — the elevation to the heavens — that it calls for analysis from Dr. Freud rather than Branch Rickey.... But when you put it all together, I think the myth counts. The story counts. It’s not just stats. The DiMaggio myth transcends history and you deny it at your peril. I admire his performance, I’m just letting a little air out of the balloon."
Alot of air John... a lot... it's deflated and alittle disappointing.
It's nuts to me that on day like today, November 25th, honoring Joe DiMaggio on his birthday, we're picking him apart as being "great", but not that great. And the myth stuff... I mean, this is a guy who's quote is displayed as a sign as players walk out onto the field for years at Yankee Stadium.
DiMaggio's legacy is huge in New York and I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, and this may seem unfair, but so is this critique of DiMaggio... It almost seems like Thorn's rooting against DiMaggio. I'm not saying he is, I have respect for Thorn. All I'm saying is for years, Yankee fans, even baseball fans alike know from stats and stories about the greatness of Joe. Ted Williams was clearly the greatest hitter of all time, no one's disputing that, but a career .325 average is no slouch.
Well anyway, I thought this was interesting and wanted you to read it. Happy Birthday Joltin' Joe... sorry for such a lousy tribute. No one deserves that.
By the way, be sure to read BYB's tribute of Joe DiMaggio in THE YANKEES MOUNT OLYMPUS: JOE DIMAGGIO. Job well done, Steve Skinner.
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