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Signs of DiMaggio's Greatness

New York Daily News—July 17, 2007

I have not seen copies of Joe DiMaggio's diary, which is about to be auctioned off by Brandon Steiner. But I'm wondering if a certain incident is included in Joe's daily jottings, which he wrote in longhand.

On Nov. 5, 1992, at the second annual Rawlings Gold Glove Awards ceremony at the Hilton Hotel, I witnessed DiMag pay particular attention to a ball he was signing because it was owned by someone special.

Before the dinner, we were all given Rawlings baseballs with gold stitching, to mark a special occasion.

At the dinner, I was seated in good company. DiMaggio was at the head of the table, as always. Included in our group was Dr. Rock Positano, who is affiliated with Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Dr. Rock was a good friend of Joe D's and has famed people like Henry Kissinger as his patients.

Positano was telling us about Kissinger the baseball fan and how much he idolized DiMag as a young man. Likewise, Kissinger was a man DiMaggio always admired, yet the two had never met.

One day, Kissinger came to Positano's office for treatment of an old foot injury. On this particular day, DiMag had come to see the doctor on a social visit. Knowing that the doctor was with another patient, he waited in the outer office until the doctor came out and said, "Come in Joe. I want to introduce you to someone." Joe walked in, and when Kissinger saw him, he cried out, "Oh, my God, it's Joe DiMaggio!"

The two sat there in the doctor's office talking baseball for almost an hour. From that day on, DiMag and Henry became friends.

Now at the dinner, the baseballs were being passed around for autographs. Everybody was coming to Joe for his—children and adults alike. I was seated to Joe's right, so I had a good view.

The line for Joe's signature was not getting any shorter. At one point, I heard a man with a familiar voice say, "Joe, would you sign this for me?" "Sure, Willie," Joe said with a smile.

By golly it was Willie Mays! Joe held the ball for awhile and pondered at what he should inscribe to Willie. It had to be something special, and it was. Joe personalized it with admiring words.

It was certainly a treat for me to witness this. Here were two of the greatest center fielders in baseball history and one was handing over an autographed baseball to the other.

I just hope that grand episode at the Hilton Hotel was recorded by Joe.

This article by Bill Gallo originally appeared at NYDailyNews.com.


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