“Joltin’” Joe DiMaggio, the eighth of nine children, was born in 1914 to Italian-immigrant parents in Martinez, California. A year later, the DiMaggio family, which claims two other Major League centerfielders (Dom and Vince), moved to San Francisco.

Although he would make his name as one of the greatest New York Yankees of all time, DiMaggio got his start in 1932 playing professional baseball for his hometown San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League (PCL). In 1933, DiMaggio’s first full season with the Seals, a candy company called Zee-Nut released the first DiMaggio trading card.

Zee-Nut printed two DiMaggio cards in 1934, one showing him batting, the other featuring a fielding pose. The company also printed DiMaggio cards in 1935 and 1936 before it stopped publishing cards of PCL players altogether in 1938. The Zee-Nut cards were black and white and are notable for the misspelling DiMaggio’s name on the front as “J. DeMaggio,” which was also true for Zee-Nut cards made for Joe’s brothers.

The Zee-Nut cards were tall (3 ½”) and narrow (1 ¾”). Although the cards were not dated, a perforated coupon on the bottom of each card had expiration date, which is how collectors today can determine a Zee-Nut card’s year.

DiMaggio was extremely successful in the PCL. In his first full season he had a 61-game hitting streak—five games longer than his hitting streak with the Yankees in 1941, which is still the Major League record. He finished the 1933 season batting .340 with 28 homeruns and an astounding 169 runs batted in.

Although his first full season with the Yankees was in 1936, the Goudey Gum Company did not issue a DiMaggio rookie card until 1938. There were actually two DiMaggio cards produced that year. Both feature an oversize, hand-tinted photograph of DiMaggio’s head atop a hand-drawn body of the slugger with a bat in his hands. One card was dominated by this caricature alone, but a second card used the same image surrounded by a series of cartoons about DiMaggio’s life.

The cartoons were intended as jokey commentaries on DiMaggio’s meteoric rise in the big leagues. For example, “$25,000 a year. Pretty fair salary for a young fellow!” reads one ...

In 1940, Play Ball made its DiMaggio card the #1 card in its set. As with the 1938 Goudeys, the Play Ball cards suffered from toning irregularities, so finding this black-and-white DiMaggio card in high-grade is extremely difficult. Eight years later, DiMaggio would again be given the honor of #1 card in a set, this time in Leaf’s 1948-49 series. Unlike the Play Ball cards, these new Leaf cards were bright, colorful, and visually appealing, though not enough, it seems, to prevent the company from folding in 1950. Both the Play Ball and Leaf #1 DiMaggio cards are hard to find in top condition.

A year after Play Ball put DiMaggio at the head of its set, the “Yankee Clipper,” as he was often called, won his second of three American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards. It was during that 1941 season that DiMaggio had his 56-game hitting streak, a record that has been called one of sports’ hardest achievements to eclipse.

DiMaggio’s MVP award that season was controversial, however, because Ted Williams, an outfielder for the rival Boston Red Sox, had a .406 batting average and led the league with 37 homeruns. No player has hit over .400 since that year. DiMaggio would win his third MVP in 1947, two years after returning to baseball after serving three years in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

DiMaggio and Williams enjoyed a great rivalry over the years, and consequently collectors have longed for photographs of the two men together, like the famous shot of them in a dugout taken during that 1941 season, or the picture of the pair that graced the July 8, 1950 cover of “TV Guide.” Collectors also covet memorabilia such as game-used bats and balls signed by both players.

While they were arguably the two best players in baseball in the 1940s, the owners of DiMaggio’s and Williams’ teams briefly explored the possibility of trading them for one another. Yankee Stadium played to Williams’ strengths as a left-handed hitter while Fenway Park played to DiMaggio’s strengths as a righty. The deal fell through only after Yankees’ General Manager Larry MacPhail refused to include Yogi Berra in the trade.

DiMaggio retired after the 1951 season, but not before he had the opportunity to share the outfield with another Yankee great: Mickey Mantle. Mantle was a rookie in 1951, so the two only spent a year as teammates, which mean a photograph of the two players together, especially autographed, is extremely desirable to many collectors.

As it turned out, DiMaggio’s retirement did not signal the end of his career as a creator of baseball memorabilia. That’s because in 1954 he eloped with movie star Marilyn Monroe. The marriage lasted less than a year, but that was enough time to create collectors’ items out of photographs of, and correspondence between, DiMaggio and Monroe.

In 2006, DiMaggio’s grandchildren auctioned off many of their grandfather’s collectibles. In total the auction netted more than $4 million and included everything from letters between Monroe and DiMaggio to a silver-plated ice bucket DiMaggio used in the 1940s.

The items that garnered some of the highest bids included a pinstriped flannel game-worn uniform from DiMaggio’s last World Series in 1951, as well as the ball he hit in 1941 to break Wee Willie Keeler’s record of 44 consecutive games. The item that sold for the highest amount, $281,750, was DiMaggio’s 1947 MVP award. Because he was such a popular player in New York, everything from his Hall of Fame ring to his and Monroe’s marriage certificate commanded huge prices.

Other popular DiMaggio collectibles include game-used Louisville Slugger bats, statues, autographed baseballs, and autographed Hall of Fame plaques, which have been produced by various companies and sold by the Hall of Fame since the late 1930s. Only certain players, DiMaggio among them, have autographed plaques available for purchase.

Finally, although autographed DiMaggio artifacts are not especially difficult to come by, bats autographed by DiMaggio are extremely rare because he was one of the first players to control the types of bats he used and the number of them he would sign. That scarcity has made them quite sought-after today.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Old Cardboard

Old Cardboard

Check out this well-organized collection of 500 sets of baseball cards, each over 50 years old. Browsable by type a… [read review or visit site]

The Baseball Card Blog

The Baseball Card Blog

Ben Henry's lively vintage baseball card blog, started in January 2006, offers hundreds of great posts on (and pict… [read review or visit site]

Cardboard Junkie

Cardboard Junkie

Dave Campbell's in-depth blog on old baseball (and some football) cards lives up to it's motto: 'do cards, not drug… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Roll up your socks for this Library of Congress collection showcasing hundreds of players on colorful early basebal… [read review or visit site]

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

A home run for baseball collectors, this site features special online exhibits, ranging from a baseball-uniforms da… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Jimmie Foxx Ted Williams Dimaggio 58/99 Bat Jersey Lineups 2014 Panini Classics1938 Goudey Joe Dimaggio Yankees Baseball Card #274 Psa 1 PoorJoe Dimaggio 2006 Ud Exquisite Legends Quad Jersey W/pinstripe #/15 Rare! $250(64) Card Lot Of 1952 Topps Baseball Cards (hodges, Dimaggio, Feller, Runnels)Joe Dimaggio Psa/dna Signed Personal Check, Certified Authentic Autographed RareJoe Dimaggio Yankees Signed Autograph Oal Baseball With Jsa CoaJoe Dimaggio 93 Pinnacle Certified Auto Card Set New York YankeesMickey Mantle Ted Williams Joe Dimaggio Hand Signed Ball No Coa Real Or Replica?Joe Dimaggio Yankees Hof Signed Cronin Baseball Psa/dnaJoe Dimaggio 2006 Ud Exquisite Memorabilia Triple Jersey Card Platinum #/15Joe Dimaggio 2007 Ud Premier Remnants Triple Jersey "joe" W/pinstripes #15/752014 Panini Classics Classic Lineups J. Foxx T. Williams D Dimaggio Bat Wool /99Joe Dimaggio (1914-1999) Signed 8x10 Photo, New York Yankee Hall Of FameJoe Dimaggio Yankees Single Signed Auto Autographed Baseball Psa/dna *494687Joe Dimaggio 2006 Ud Exquisite Memorabilia Triple Jersey Card Gold #/251952 Topps Psa 6 Dom Dimaggio Low Number Boston Red Sox #22 Baseball Card1936 Goudey Wide Pen R314 Type 4 Joe Dimaggio Sgc 60Joe Dimaggio Signed Baseball Psa Dna 8.51964 Joe Dimaggio Yankees Signed Auto Autographed Hof Yellow Postcard PlaqueJoe Dimaggio 2007 Ud Premier Quad Jersey Masterpiece True 1of1 W/pinstripes! WowJoe Dimaggio New York Yankees 2014 Panini Classics Home Run Heroes Gu JerseyWayne Gretzky Larry Bird Joe Dimaggio 2003 Ud Legendary Leaders Jersey /250Joe Dimaggio 2007 Ud Premier Quad Jersey "joed" W/pinstripes! #03/36 Rare!Joe Dimaggio 2006 Ud Exquisite Memorabilia Triple Jersey Card W/pinstripes #/45Joe Dimaggio Signed Lithograph With Ceritficate Of Authenticity1952 Topps 22 Bb Dom Dimaggio Psa 52014 Leaf Best Of Baseball Prime Cuts Joe Dimaggio Cut Autograph /2501937 Wheaties Series 9 Production Proof-#5 Joe Dimaggio, Ny Yankees Hof Ex/mt+Joe Dimaggio Handwritten Signed Diary Page W/ Padded Display Book - Steiner Coa1939 Play Ball Joe Dimaggio #26 Psa Ex 5 Miscut Hof Sample Rare Rookie CardVintage 1940s Joe Dimaggio Ny Yankees Personality Pennant, Rare Red Variation1951 Berk Ross Doubles Panel Joe Dimaggio (#2-5) / Hamner (#2-7) ... Nm-mtJoe Dimaggio Hof55 Hand Signed1994 World Series Ball No Coa Real Or Replica?Joe Dimaggio Autographed Cards2014 Panini Hall Of Fame 75th Lot Ripken Bench Clemente Yount Dimaggio Foxx Ott1941 Play Ball Starter Set 11 Cards Includes Dimaggio LookJoe Dimaggio Autographed Index Card W/coa2007 Topps Sterling Joe Dimaggio Jersey Bat Five Piece Patch #3/10 MadeJoe Dimaggio Hand Signed 1996 World Series Ball No Coa Real Or Replica?Williams Dimaggio Mantle Signed 8x10 Photo With Psa/dna1946 Washington Senators V Ny Yankees Program @ Yankee Stadium Dimaggio Rizzuto2007 Topps Triple Threads Mvp Patch Booklet Book Mantle Dimaggio Clemente Pujols1967 Laughlin World Series 12 Cards With Add Var Ford Duke Snider Dimaggio1944 Mlb Joe Dimaggio Walter Judnick In Seventh Aaf Original Type 1 Press Photo1953 Topps Baseball #149 Dom Dimaggio Boston Red Sox Nice!1949 49 Bowman Dom Dimaggio #64 Psa 3 VgJoe Dimaggio 16x20 Autographed Psa/dna Coa. 11/56Mantle/dimaggio/williams Autographed Baseball....certified2014 Panini Hof 75th Anniversary Joe Dimaggio Emerald Card #ed 8/10Danbury Mint New York Yankee Joe Dimaggio Hall Of Famer All Star Figurine & BaseJim Coates " 1961 Ws Champs " Signed Joe Dimaggio Baseball Auto Jsa Coa Yankees($300) Joe Dimaggio Vintage 1977 Black & White Graded Gem Mint 102014 Panini Immaculate Joe Dimaggio The Greatest Bat Relic #10/49 (kd)($300) Joe Dimaggio Vintage 1977 Black & White Graded Gem Mint 10Mickey Mantle Joe Dimaggio Willie Mays Duke Snyder Autograph Jsa CertifiedJoe Dimaggio - Louisville Slugger 1976 Bicentennial BatLot Of 18 1947-1966 Exhibits Baseball Cards - No Rsv Berra Williams DimaggioNew York Yankees Vs. Cleveland Indians Aug. 24, 1940 Ticket Stub Dimaggio FellerBob Feller Signed 16x20 B&w Photo Vs Joe Dimaggio Psa/dna AutoJoe Dimaggio Autograph 8x10 Photo W/hologram Sticker

Recent News: Joe DiMaggio Memorabilia

Source: Google News

Oakland Tribune editorial: Martinez pride in being birthplace of Joe DiMaggio ...
Contra Costa Times, November 17th

Granted, it has been nearly 100 years since Joe DiMaggio's birth, but that doesn't lessen the community pride in being the birthplace of one the greatest American heroes of the 20th century. In fact, the centennial of his birth on Nov. 25 has prompted...Read more

Love letters from Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller to Marilyn Monroe going on ...
WJLA, November 16th

"My heart split even wider seeing you cry in front of all these people," he wrote in the letter addressed to "Mrs. Joe DiMaggio" and mailed special delivery. Other letters in the collection come from such friends as Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Jane...Read more

What they said: Quotes from Joe DiMaggio, Nancy Pelosi, Rory Kay
SFGate, November 14th

“There is nothing I would like better than to restore your confidence in me.” Joe DiMaggio begging estranged wife Marilyn Monroe to come back, in love letters to be auctioned off. “What was the day that any of you said to Mitch McConnell, when they...Read more

DiMaggio's Marilyn Monroe letters tell tale of unrequited love
MarketWatch, November 12th

If Joe DiMaggio were alive today, he'd probably be wishing SnapChat was around when he was pouring his heart out 60 years ago to save his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. It's hard to imagine the famously private baseball legend not minding his emotional ...Read more

Marilyn Monroe's Lost Love Letters From Joe DiMaggio Go Up For Sale
Huffington Post, November 12th

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — It's no secret Joe DiMaggio loved Marilyn Monroe. The baseball great cried at her funeral and for 20 years had flowers placed at her crypt several times a week. The public displays were unusual for the famously stoic and ...Read more

Martinez: Joltin' Joe DiMaggio's 100th birthday celebration, launch of ...
Contra Costa Times, November 11th

"Joe DiMaggio was my idol when I was a boy. We have the same birthday," he said. Nostalgia plays a role this month as Wendt and fellow members of the Sons of Italy of Diablo Valley join Martinez residents to celebrate the 100th birthday of the man ...Read more

REVIEW: 'Joltin' Joe DiMaggio' swings for the fences
New York Daily News (blog), November 3rd

Jonah Winter didn't hit a home run with "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio," but he didn't strike out, either. It has to be tough, writing biographies for kids — this book is targeted for the 4-8-year-old demo — but Winter has made a living doing it, writing bios...Read more

Classy Yankees captain Derek Jeter our own Joe DiMaggio
New York Daily News, September 6th

For 19 seasons, Derek Jeter has carried himself with grace, resolve and dignity as the quintessential Yankee — the same way as the quintessential Yankee of another era, Joe DiMaggio, who never had a bad game or made a bad play anyone can remember...Read more