Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Loyalty and Longevity Pt. 4: Dom DiMaggio

In this series, I look at players who played their entire Major League career with the Red Sox, as long as said Major League career lasted at least ten years.
Dom DiMaggio was one of three DiMaggio brothers to play in the Major Leagues.  He was not nearly as famous as his older brother Joe, but was a very good player in his own right.  Had he not missed three seasons from the prime of his career for service in World War II, and played a little bit longer, he may have also been elected to the Hall of Fame.  
DiMaggio made his Major League debut in 1940 after purchased him from the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League.  He made an immediate impact, hitting .301/.367/.464 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs.  He started out by playing a lot of right field as Doc Cramer still patrolled center field, but it soon became clear that DiMaggio was an elite defensive player and was much better in center.  In 1941, DiMaggio made his first of seven All Star appearances.  His numbers overall slipped somewhat, but he still played well.  And 1942 was more of the same.
Like a lot of other players, DiMaggio missed the 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons due to service for his country.  He came back to the Red Sox for the 1946 season, along with stars Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, and Ted Williams.  Boston found themselves flushed with talent and rolled over the American League on the way to the World Series.  DiMaggio was an All Star and had his best season so far, hitting .316/.393/.427 with seven home runs and 73 RBIs.  He was the leadoff hitter for the Red Sox for most of the season.  Unfortunately, like most other Red Sox, DiMaggio struggled in the World Series.  He hit just .259 but had three doubles and three RBIs.  But he would be remembered more for coming out of Game 7 with an injury late in the game, which meant that the defensively inferior Leon Culberson was in center field when Enos Slaughter made his "mad dash for home".  DiMaggio may have been able to make the play.
Oddly, just as his brother Joe DiMaggio holds the Yankees record for longest hitting streak, so too does Dom hold the Red Sox record.  He hit safely in 34 consecutive games in 1949, obviously not as impressive as his older brother, but still a decent number.  In 1950, DiMaggio led the league in runs (131), triples (11), and stolen bases (15) while hitting .328/.414/.452.  He followed that up by again leading the league in runs (113) in 1951.  
1952 was DiMaggio's final full season, but he was still productive, hitting .294/.371/.377.  His departure from Boston was bitter.  He could obviously still play, but manager Lou Boudreau wanted to push for a youth movement and used DiMaggio sparingly.  He played in just three games by May 9 and retired.
DiMaggio was nicknamed "The Little Professor" as he simply did not resemble a professional baseball player.  He was significantly smaller than his more famous older brother and he wore glasses, very unusual at the time period.  Dom was a pretty decent hitter on his own, and he was a gifted fielder.  For several seasons, he covered center field for the Red Sox and was one of the best the team ever had.

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