A remembrance of the baseball great’s final decade, from his friend and doctor.
The relationship between Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999) and podiatrist Rock Positano—a professor at Weill Cornell Medical Center and director of the Joe DiMaggio Sports Medicine Foot and Ankle Center—began in 1990 with a medical referral. As a star outfielder with the New York Yankees and during later decades as a global celebrity, DiMaggio experienced constant pain from a bone spur in his heel. Positano got drafted to treat the ailment when he was 32 and DiMaggio was 76. A friendship seemed unlikely, partly because doctors and patients rarely bond socially but mainly because DiMaggio was famously private about his personal life—with good reason given the countless celebrity seekers who worshipped professional baseball players, not to mention the former husband of Marilyn Monroe. However, as the author writes, he became one of DiMaggio’s few confidants regarding his two failed marriages, his troubled son from his first marriage, the baseball people he respected and disrespected, his political beliefs, his distress at individuals who failed to dress properly or show old-fashioned courtesy, and much more. For readers who already admire DiMaggio, Positano’s overly celebratory memoir will have much to offer. For others, the presentation may be grating, as the author’s name-dropping never ceases, and the sections that explore DiMaggio’s mean streak and inflexibility are diluted by Positano’s interjections of the great man’s virtues. “Accompanying him to all sorts of events,” writes the author, “I saw a stunning array of famous, rich, powerful people who were in awe of him and wanted to get close to him. The intensity of their admiration surprised me.”
Baseball fans will savor DiMaggio’s views about Ted Williams, Pete Rose, and many other famous players; Marilyn Monroe fans will find less of interest. As for other potential readers, the appeal will be limited.