Joe DiMaggio was a legend during his own lifetime. Aside from his famous 56-game hitting streak (a still-standing MLB record), he also stole home five times, earned three MVP Awards, and is the only athlete in the history of American professional sports to win four championships in his first four years.
All his baseball accomplishments are made even more impressive by the fact that his military service removed him from the game for three years at age 29, years that could have been the prime of his career.
In 1951, Joltin’ Joe’s form was starting to slip. Constant injuries, including two bone spurs and repeated shoulder dislocations, reduced his playing time. He was slowing down; he couldn’t swing as fast or as hard, and the days of stealing home were long over. Add to that his rocky relationship with Yankees coach Casey Stengel, and DiMaggio knew it was time.
On December 11, 1951, DiMaggio held a press conference announcing his retirement, saying:
I told you fellows last spring I thought this would be my last year. I only wish I could have had a better year. But even if I hit .350, this would have been the last year for me. I feel I have reached the stage where I can no longer produce for my ball club, my manager, my teammates, and my fans the sort of baseball their loyalty to me deserves
You can listen to DiMaggio’s full audio here.
Classic Photos of Joe DiMaggio
This summer marks the 70th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak. With that in mind, here are some classic photos of The Yankee Clipper. 1936 Rookie Joe DiMaggio hugs his brothers Vince, left, and Dom before the start of the 1936 World Series in New York.
DiMaggio with St. Louis Cardinals star Dizzy Dean.
Sportswriter Bill Corum with Ruth and DiMaggio at the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore.
Mel Ott, Joe Moore, DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig at the 1936 World Series.
DiMaggio greets the fans and signs autographs in the spring of 1938.
DiMaggio at bat against the Cardinals during spring training in St. Petersburg, Fla.
New York Yankees Lefty Gomez, Joe DiMaggio and manager Joe McCarthy in San Antonio for a game with the San Antonio Missions.
Ted Williams and DiMaggio after the All-Star game in Detroit.
DiMaggio sliding safely for the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of the Yankees 7-4 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the 1941 World Series.
DiMaggio as Santa with his son Joe DiMaggio III
DiMaggio with fellow recruits after receiving his uniform.
DiMaggio, arriving back from the Pacific, where he served with the 7th Air Force.
DiMaggio takes a photo of Albert B. Hoppy Chandler at the Banquet of Sports Champions.
DiMaggio signs autographs for fans who met him at Penn Station in New York City.
Yogi Berra and DiMaggio celebrate winning the 1950 World Series.
DiMaggio and his wife, Dorothy Arnold.
DiMaggio conducts a batting clinic for a group of youngsters in New York.
DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married in January 1954. She filed for divorce in October of that same year.
The tabloids chronicled the couple's ups and downs.
Mickey Mantle in the locker room with DiMaggio after an old-timers game.
New York Governor George Pataki riding in a car with DiMaggio during the Yankees 1996 ticker tape parade.