Picture a 14-year old boy standing at the door to the visitors’ locker room at the Kansas City Blues stadium in 1951. The Blues are a AAA farm team of the New York Yankees, and the Yankees are playing the Blues in the annual exhibition game the two teams play.
It’s about the fourth or fifth inning. Yankee manager Casey Stengel, having given the yokels a look at the stars of the team, has pulled them to give the second-stringers a few innings on the field. The boy’s father has told his son that it’s a good time to go try to get players’ autographs, and the boy has gone down to the locker room with his new autograph book in hand.
He especially wants DiMaggio’s autograph. The other stars, he’s not sure of. But he knows about DiMaggio. The great Joe DiMaggio.
It’s drizzling in Kansas City, but the boy doesn’t care. He’s willing to be soaked, if that’s what he has to do to get DiMaggio’s autograph.
The door opens and some men come out and hurry past the boy to one of the taxis in the line along the curb. The taxi drives off. A short man in a suit had held the door for them, and the boy asks the man if they were players. The man tells him they were. The door opens again, and more players head for taxis. They all ignore the book in the boy’s outstretched hand.
And then the short man opens he door again and DiMaggio appears in the doorway. The boy knows the face. He edges forward.
“Mr. DiMaggio, may I have your autograph?” he asks.
“Out of my way, kid,” DiMaggio says. He brushes the boy aside and hurries to a taxi.
Other players follow. They ignore the boy, too.
The disappointed boy turns to the man holding the door.
“Do you have anything to do with the team?” he asks.
“Yes,” the man says.
“Would sign my book?”
“Sure, kid.” He takes it and the pen the boy offers, signs the book and returns it.
“Thanks,” the boy says, and walks back up the ramp to the stands.
Only then does the boy look at the book. There’s the signature on the first page: “Phil Rizzuto.” And for the nearly 60 years since, he has treasured that autograph, and in all those years he has never met a finer man.
But DiMaggio? When he was grown, and anyone mentioned the great Joe DiMaggio, and he could use such words, the response he practically spat out was always the same.
“Joe DiMaggio? Fuck Joe DiMaggio.”