Judge remembers Joe


    Your touching and moving column anent the passing of Jolting Joe DiMaggio certainly left a lump in my throat and a tear or two in the eyes of this sentimental Yankee fan. Not even my Malibu friend and legendary sportswriter the late Jim Murray could have penned a nicer, more sincere tribute than you did.

    Of course, I was a total Yankee fan whose dad took me to every home game the Yankees played where I saw the pin-striped heroes — Gehrig, Ruth, Mantle, Meusal, DiMaggio and my personal hero Bill Dickey, great catcher and hitter for the Yankees. I was working for the Associated Press in New York and I played catcher for the AP team in a Radio City league made up of most of the big corporations housed in the Radio City complex. Being a member of the media, we had a special deal wherein we were able to lease the Yankee Stadium for a day when the pin-stripes were out of town travelling. I think we paid $1 to $5 per man as a gratuity to the groundskeeper who let us in to play and furnished the bases and the home plate.

    You mentioned in your column: “I never met DiMaggio. I never saw him play.” Well I saw him play many times and I did meet him once under unique circumstances. It was a rainy Friday afternoon in the Christmas Season in the 1960s, and I stopped at Blessed Sacrament Church in Beverly Hills before driving home to Malibu. There was one other person in the church, kneeling at the traditional Visitation Creche. By coincidence, we both left the church together and as we met on the steps of the church, I recognized the fellow to be one of my heroes and idol — the great Joe DiMaggio. Our conversation went something like this: “How are you Joe?” His reply, “OK how are you?” “I’m OK,” said I with a mouth full of clover. “Happy New Year,” said Joe as he readjusted his coat collar against the rain. “Happy New Year,” I mumbled. He turned and walked away toward the parking lot.

    “Tough, capable, quiet, loyal and laconic. It’s the way we like our heroes, and he certainly was our hero.” The closing words of your great column, Arnold. Thank you.

    John J. Merrick,

    judge, retired