The March 09, 1999 front page headline in the New York Times read, Joe DiMaggio, Yankee Clipper, Dies at 84
Joe DiMaggio, the flawless center fielder for the New York Yankees who, along with Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, symbolized the team’s dynastic success across the 20th century and whose 56-game hitting streak in 1941 made him an instant and indelible American folk hero, died early today at his home here. He was 84 years old.
DiMaggio died shortly after midnight, nearly five months after undergoing surgery for cancer of the lungs. He had spent 99 days in the hospital while battling lung infections and pneumonia, and his illness generated a national vigil as he was reported near death several times. He went home on Jan. 19, alert but weak and with little hope of surviving. Several family members and close friends were at his bedside this morning.
DiMaggio’s body was flown to Northern California for a funeral Thursday and for burial in San Francisco, his hometown.
In a country that has idolized and even immortalized its 20th century heroes, from Charles A. Lindbergh to Elvis Presley, no one more embodied the American dream of fame and fortune or created a more enduring legend than Joe DiMaggio. He became a figure of unequaled romance and integrity in the national mind because of his consistent professionalism on the baseball field, his marriage to the Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, his devotion to her after her death, and the pride and courtliness with which he carried himself throughout his life.
Durso’s 3800-word homage ended:
And he seemed to relish the invitations back to Yankee Stadium, where he frequently threw out the first ball on opening day, tall but slightly stooped, dressed elegantly, as always, in a dark business suit, walking to the mound and lobbing one to the catcher.
It was there on the day the season ended last year, as the Yankees set a team record with their 114th victory, that he was acclaimed on yet another Joe DiMaggio Day, the timeless hero and the symbol of Yankee excellence, acknowledging the cheers of Yankee players and fans.
It was the kind of cheering that accompanied him through life and that he had quietly come to expect. It recalled the time when he and Monroe, soon after their wedding, took a trip to Tokyo. She continued on to entertain American troops in Korea, and said with fascination when she returned, ”Joe, you’ve never heard such cheering.”
And Joe DiMaggio replied softly, ”Yes, I have.”