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Joe DiMaggio

Age: 84

one of the greatest players to ever step into cleats and play the game of baseball, DiMaggio reigned as the graceful king of New York Yankees baseball for more than 60 years; nicknamed "Joltin Joe" and "The Yankee Clipper," he hit successfully in 56 straight games in 1941, a baseball record most experts think is unbreakable; born to Italian immigrants who moved to North Beach, the heavily Italian section near the San Francisco waterfront the year Joe was born; began playing professionally with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League at the age of 17; hit successfully in 61 straight games for the Seals in 1933; signed with the Yankees in 1936; roamed center field for the Bronx Bombers from 1936-51, missing three seasons (1943-45) to serve in WWII; won the American League MVP award in 1939, 1941 and 1947; his 369 career strikeouts (in 6,821 at bats) is a stunningly low total for a power hitter such as DiMaggio, who hit 361 career home runs; won back-to-back A.L. batting titles in 1939 and 1940 and finished his career with a lifetime .325 average; played in 11 All-Star Games; led the Yankees to 10 A.L. pennants and nine World Series championships; his rival, Red Sox legend Ted Williams, called him "the greatest baseball player of our time."; after divorcing his first wife in 1944, began dating actress Marilyn Monroe and married her in 1954; the relationship sparked a legion of new fans which helped turn him into one of the 20th century's most recognized personalities; after retirement he spent time as a broadcaster and spring training instructor with the Yankees, television spokesperson and coach with the Oakland Athletics; elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility, 1955. He died of lung cancer.

Died: Hollywood, Fla., March 8, 1999

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