“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    

1939 Play Ball Joe Dimaggio #26 Sgc 9/96 Mint (pwcc)Rare 1937 Ny Yankees American League Champions Pennant W/ Names Gehrig Dimaggio1948 Leaf Joe Dimaggio #1 Psa 2 Gd (pwcc)1948 Leaf Joe Dimaggio #1 Psa 3 Vg (pwcc)1938 Our National Game Pins Complete Set W/ Dimaggio Terry Greenberg Ott (pwcc)1939 Play Ball Joe Dimaggio #26 Psa 2 Gd (pwcc)1948 Leaf Joe Dimaggio #1 Psa 4 Vgex (pwcc)Joe Dimaggio Signed Official Al Budig Omlb Baseball Ball Hof 55 Inscription Rare1948 Leaf Joe Dimaggio #1 Sgc Auth, Altered (pwcc)Joe Dimaggio Signed Autographed Oal Gene Budig (1994-1999) Baseball *mint*Joe Di Maggio #1 1948 Leaf Baseball Card - Closet Find!1943 R302-1 M.p. & Co. Low-grade Complete Set Dimaggio Williams Hubbell (pwcc)1938 Goudey Heads-up Joe Dimaggio Rookie Card #250 Sgc 3 Yankees Rc2015 National Treasures Lou Gehrig/joe Dimaggio Dual Gu Bat #rd 23/25 Yankees!1940 Play Ball #1 Joe Dimaggio Yankees Sgc 20 *5837601948 Leaf Dom Dimaggio Short Print #75 Psa 3 Vg (pwcc)Superb 1930's Original Photo Joe Dimaggio New York Yankees PortraitTriple Jersey Sweet Spot Threads Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle & Ted Williams UpdAuto'd Joe Dimaggio Rawlings Baseball Sweetspot W/photo+coa Oalb YankeesTed Williams Joe Dimaggio Autographed 11x14 Sepia Photo Psa DnaJoe Dimaggio Signed 1989 Gartlan Statue 8" Auto 2073/2214 Autograph W/ Coa Hof1941 Play Ball Dom Dimaggio Rookie Rc #63, Ex+ (pwcc)Joe Dimaggio 2015 National Treasures Bat Relic Yankees Legend Sp 34/99Joe Dimaggio Psa/dna Certified Signed Personal Check Autograph Rare! #81997611Lot(5) 1953 Topps W/ Dom Dimaggio Joe Coleman Bill Glynn, All Psa 5 6 (pwcc)2014 National Treasures Joe Dimaggio Bat 15/25 New York Yankees1937 Wheaties Series 6 Joe Dimaggio Rookie Rc #11, Gd (pwcc)2014 Panini Classics Jimmie Foxx Ted Williams Dom Dimaggio Triple Jersey Bat /99Joe Dimaggio Signed Autographed Official Baseball Psa/dna Loa AutoMickey Mantle & Joe Dimaggio Autographed Yankees And Schaefer Beer Coaster Joe Dimaggio Autographed Louisville Slugger Bat No Reserve1949 R302-2 M.p. & Co. Joe Dimaggio #105 Psa 3 Vg (pwcc)New York Yankees Autographed Signed Baseball Bat Joe Dimaggio Legends Game 20002011 Sp Legendary Cuts Joe Dimaggio Auto /35 #106 (pwcc)Bob Sheppard Single Signed Autographed Joe Dimaggio Omlb Baseball Jsa Coa D376782015 Panini National Treasures Joe Dimaggio Gu Bat Relic Card #15/992004 Ultimate Collection Babe Ruth & Joe Dimaggio Patch /50 Bgs 9.5 Gem (pwcc)Lot(5) 1943 R302-1 M.p. & Co. W/ Dimaggio Greenberg Ruffing, Pr To Gd (pwcc)1948 Swell Sport Thrills #16 Joe Dimaggio & Ted Williams Psa 3 *5838262012 Leaf Sports Icons Cut Signatures Joe Dimaggio Autograph #3/3Gfa Joe Dimaggio Hof 55 Autographed Baseball - Coa1939 Salutation Exhibits Joe Dimaggio Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1993 Pinnacle Baseball Joe Dimaggio Signed On Card Auto Autograph Hof! Yankees!1948 Leaf Joe Dimaggio #1 Baseball Card - GoodGfa -joe Dimaggio, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Bill Martin Auto 8x10 - Coa 1947-1966 Exhibits Lot Berra Sain Doerr Mele Dimaggio Ashburn Mize Mathews 30 CtRare 1940s Joe Dimaggio, Rudy York, Model Hillerich & Bradsby Baseball Lathe BatJoe Dimaggio Autographed Yankee Stadium Sculpture Hawthorne Coa No Reserve1984 All Star Game Baseball Signed By Joe Dimaggio And Bowie Kuhn Jsa CertifiedMickey Mantle Joe Dimaggio Yankees Signed 14 By 18 Centerpiece With Coa1939 Salutation Exhibits Joe Dimaggio Sgc 5/60 Ex (pwcc)1940s Joe Dimaggio Souvenir Baseball Mini Bat Louisville Slugger 16 1/2" Yankees2014 Classics Timeless Tributes Platinum Joe Dimaggio 1/1 #70 Bgs 9.5 Gem (pwcc)Joe Dimaggio Autographed Baseball W CoaJoe Dimaggio Signed 7x9 Photo Auto Autograph Matted 11x14 Jsa Loa Yankees Hof1961 Golden Press Joe Dimaggio Auto #9 Psa/dna Auth (pwcc)Mantle, Williams, And Dimaggio Autographed Signed Mlb Baseball Coa No Reserve1947-66 Exhibits 1950 Yankees Team W/ Joe Dimaggio & Yogi Berra Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1950 Callahan Hof Joe Dimaggio Psa 5 ExJoe Dimaggio New York Yankees #5 The Danbury Mint Sculpture/statue 1936-1951

Recent News: Joe DiMaggio Memorabilia

Source: Google News

Game Time
Albany Times Union, February 6th

1949: Joe DiMaggio signs his contract with the New York Yankees, making him the first baseball player to earn $100,000 per year. 1969: Diana Crump becomes the first female jockey to race at a U.S. pari-mutuel track. She rode her first mount to 10th...Read more

Q&A with Frank Sacco: CEO of Memorial Health System looks back on career ...
Miami Herald, February 6th

It was 1974 and a young Frank Sacco had just gotten out of the Army where he had served as a medical service corps officer. He was in a management training program with a subsidiary of Burger King, but “I had gotten the healthcare bug,'' so he took a...Read more

This date in sports history for Feb. 7
Fairfield Daily Republic, February 6th

1942 — At the Millrose Games in New York, Dutch Warmerdam becomes the first man to clear 15 feet in the pole vault indoors. Warmerdam, the first to break the 15-foot mark outdoors in 1940, clears 15 feet 3/8 inch. 1949 — Joe DiMaggio signs with the...Read more

Joe DiMaggio: The $100000 risk
Pinstripe Alley, February 6th

Tomorrow marks the 67th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio becoming the first baseball player to earn a contract worth $100,000 dollars. While the question "What took so long?" may pop into your head (he received that contract in 1949 as a 34-year-old, after...Read more

Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Pediatric Heart Transplant Patients Reunited ...
NBC 6 South Florida, January 21st

A special anniversary to celebrate second chances took place at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Thursday where some pediatric heart transplant patients celebrated the program's fifth anniversary by reuniting with the families of donors. (Published ...Read more

Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio married 62 year ago today
Chron.com, January 14th

It is a love story for the ages -- albeit a rocky one. Jan. 14 marks what would have been the 62nd wedding anniversary of the starlet and her baseball Hall of Fame husband, Joe DiMaggio. The marriage would only last nine months -- until October of that...Read more

Fermi, Sinatra, DiMaggio — and Capone
International New York Times, January 14th

The United States, between the 1880's and 1924, admitted about 4 million Italian immigrants. As Leon Wieseltier, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, observed to me, “We got Enrico Fermi, Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio, Antonin Scalia — and Al...Read more

Ex-Met Mike Piazza on becoming great hitter: 'I studied Ted Williams and Joe ...
NJ.com, January 8th

Former Mets star Mike Piazza hit 427 home runs across a brilliant 16-year career. His raw power—responsible for mammoth opposite-field power and unfounded performance-enhancing drug rumors—is often cited as the source of his offensive brilliance...Read more