Q: What did Joe mean to the Yankees?
Well, Joe was literally everything, you know. We went into Fort Worth in spring training. In those days, you'd be on a train for two weeks and travel all over the south and come back to Yankee Stadium and play the Dodgers three games.
And in 1949 -- it was my first full year -- he disappeared after Fort Worth. Nobody knew where he was. We found out later that his heel was starting to bark again. He had that problem in 1947. So, we went along and we were young and dumb and didn't know how good we were or weren't. And we got off to a great start. We started to win.
And, finally, somewhere in June, DiMaggio -- without ever having played a game, mind you -- showed up in Boston to play the Red Sox. This was our arch-rival, a team we had to beat to win the pennant. I think we went in there like 8 games ahead or something or whatever. And DiMaggio showed up and hit four home runs, one every game -- won all three games with home runs. We went out of there with an 11-game lead. Now, we thought we had buried the Red Sox but we didn't, because we had to go to the final game of the season to win it all.
But basically, DiMaggio just came like that, picked us up, and took us off on his shoulders, and off we went.
The only time that I ever heard Joe say anything about his life as a ball player -- we were taking a train out of Boston and going, I don't where we were going, it was in the diner -- and I heard him say this: "Can't beat this life." I never heard him say anything like that. He would never expound on anything. He was very quiet. But ... he was as happy as a clam just sitting there realizing that he was back, that he could play, and this was the life that he really wanted.
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