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Joe dimaggio's 1936 new york yankees rookie home uniform

  • USA
  • 2005-12-10
About the object
In 1936, America was held tightly in the grip of the Depression. Babe Ruth had retired. Lou Gehrig still continued his excellence but in a quiet manner, inspiring more genuflection than excitement. Then, that May, the rookie from the Pacific Coast League arrived in New York and provided a transfusion of awe and electricity to the Nation’s favorite game. The bulk of Joe DiMaggio’s legend was created during his first tour in the majors, before his country's call to arms during World War II robbed him of three prime seasons. Heralded beyond any rookie in the game before him, DiMaggio somehow exceeded unsurpassable expectations. Had there been a Rookie of the Year Award in 1936 it would have been Joe's. He hit .323 with 29 HRs and 125 RBI and helped bring a World Series title to New York in his first season. From the moment Joe DiMaggio first put on his pinstripes, he made the Yankees “his” team --- in some ways, they are still his team.   “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” Joe DiMaggio was more than the most complete all-around player of his generation. He was more than the player who set one of the game's most cherished records, hitting safely in 56 consecutive games. Baseball has produced many icons, but it has produced only one Joe DiMaggio. He has proven to be the most enduring symbol of baseball greatness. In the almost half a century from his retirement until his death on March 8, 1999, he retained his image as America's ultimate hero. What American male wouldn't sell his soul to duplicate the exacta that Joltin' Joe accomplished - playing centerfield for the Yankees and marrying the sexiest woman on the planet? "Joe DiMaggio is what you get when you build mystique on top of greatness," said Ron Swoboda, the former Met who played a generation after DiMaggio. Though known to be short tempered in private, DiMaggio refrained from showing such behavior in public. A painfully private person, he always was careful and protective of his image, understanding that it was his legacy. "It is not for DiMaggio's records that we remember him," wrote Ira Berkow of The New York Times. "He is best remembered for the persona of Joe DiMaggio. He remains a symbol of excellence, elegance, power and, to be sure, gentleness." His marriage to Marilyn Monroe was an amazing coupling of American celebrity: The country's most revered athlete hitched to its most adored actress. There was this conversation when she returned to their honeymoon suite in Tokyo after entertaining more than 100,000 servicemen in Korea: "It was so wonderful, Joe," she said. "You never heard such cheering." "Yes I have," he said, quietly. DiMaggio burst on to the major league landscape in 1936, helping the Yankees begin the second chapter in their dynasty. After winning only one pennant and World Series in the previous seven years, behind DiMaggio, the Bombers won four straight world championships. In DiMaggio's thirteen seasons, they won ten pennants and nine World Series. When he retired in 1951, he had a lifetime average of .325, down from the .339 it had been before he served three years in the military during World War II. He won two home-run crowns (1937 and 1948) on his way to 361. (Remarkably, he struck out only 369 times, a ratio of dingers to whiffs that no other long-ball hitter even approaches.) DiMaggio hit over .300 eleven times and won two batting titles - .381 in 1939 and .352 in 1940. He knocked in more than 100 runs nine times, leading the American League with 125 in 1941 and 155 in 1948 and finishing second with 167 in 1937. He won three Most Valuable Player Awards (1939, 1941 and 1947). His fame was recorded in song and prose. In the sixties, when Simon and Garfunkel wanted to express a longing for another time, they wrote in "Mrs. Robinson": "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” "A nation turns its lonely eyes to you." Earlier, Ernest Hemingway had turned to the Yankee Clipper when he sought a symbol. In his novel The Old Man and the Sea, the old man says, "I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing. They say his father was a fisherman. Maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand." He was a fisherman, all right. Joe, the eighth of nine children, was born on Nov. 25, 1914, in Martinez, Calif., a small fishing village 25 miles northeast of San Francisco. The next year, his father moved the family to San Francisco because he heard the fishing was better off its waters. While Zio Pepe, as DiMaggio's father was called, wanted his five sons to become fishermen like him, only the oldest two did. Joe and brothers Vince and Dom became major league baseball players. Joe spent three seasons with the San Francisco Seals, and, in 1933,  as an eighteen-year old rookie, set a Pacific Coast League record by hitting safely in 61 consecutive games. "Baseball didn't really get into my blood until I knocked off that hitting streak," DiMaggio said. "Getting a daily hit became more important to me than eating, drinking or sleeping. Overnight I became a personality." The Yankees bought him for a reported $25,000 and five players after the 1934 season. They kept him in San Francisco for another year, and he tore up the PCL again with a .398 average, 34 homers and 154 RBI. As a rookie with the Yankees, he was on the cover of Time magazine during the 1936 season. Lou Gehrig was the AL MVP, and DiMaggio helped Gehrig by providing an equally powerful weapon, as he hit .323 with 29 homers, 132 runs and 125 RBI. He also led A.L. outfielders with 22 assists. DiMaggio helped the Yankees to totals of 102, 102, 99 and 106 victories his first four seasons plus a 16-3 record in the World Series. In the summer of 1941, a nation turned its eyes to him. During his record hitting streak, which began on May 15 with an inauspicious 1-for-4 game, the Les Brown big band recorded “Joltin' Joe DiMaggio”, a hit that was played day and night on the radio. Finally, on July 17, before a crowd of 67,468 in Cleveland, pitchers Al Smith and Jim Bagby Jr. kept him hitless, thanks to two outstanding plays by third baseman Ken Keltner and a good one by shortstop Lou Boudreau. He hit .408 (91-of-223) with 15 homers and 55 RBI during the streak. After that game, DiMaggio went on a 16-game hitting streak. DiMaggio, who batted .357 for the season, won the MVP despite Ted Williams hitting .406 with a league-leading 37 homers. He also took the 1947 MVP - by one point - over Williams, though the Splendid Splinter won the Triple Crown. In the late 1940s, DiMaggio showed his Achilles heel, or heels, literally. At times, he said, "it felt as if a nail was stuck into them - only 20 times worse." An operation in November 1948 didn't help much. He wasn't able to play until June 28, but made a legendary return, hitting four homers and knocking in nine runs as the Yankees swept three games in Boston, igniting one of the most thrilling pennant chases ever. DiMaggio hit .346 in 76 games, and the Yankees won the 1949 American League championship on the season's final day by beating the Red Sox. When he hit .373 for the final six weeks of 1950, lifting his average to .301, and drove home 122 runs probably convinced DiMaggio he had one more year left despite his lingering ailments. He didn't - sinking to .263 and 12 homers in his final 1951 season - and tearfully he retired that December. "I stayed one season too long," he said. After his love affair ended with baseball, he began one with Monroe. He was 39, she 27 when they married on Jan. 14, 1954, despite, according to Gay Talese in Esquire, "disharmony in temperament and time: he was tired of publicity, she was thriving on it; he was intolerant of tardiness, she was always late." When the marriage ended in divorce nine months later, it was, as another writer said, "an adult version of learning there is no Santa Claus." But even after their divorce, they remained friends. This enhanced his image. After her death in 1962, it was DiMaggio who supervised her funeral arrangements and had flowers put on her grave three times a week for 20 years. DiMaggio remained in the spotlight as a spokesman for several companies. But he carried himself with grace even when he sold Mr. Coffee machines or appeared in ads for a New York bank. There was no sense he had cheapened himself. At nearly every public appearance he made, DiMaggio was introduced as "the greatest living ballplayer." And now, even after his death, he remains an icon, an American folk hero. – Larry Schwartz (ESPN SportsCentury) 1936 Joe DiMaggio, twenty one years old, tall and slender, slow to smile, yet quietly confident, made his first trip east of the Rocky Mountains, on his way to spring training in 1936. Having conquered the Pacific Coast League, he was leaving behind its modest venues and limited regional dimensions that kept him close to the comforts of home and family. The Yankees made sure their prize package wouldn’t have to travel unattended: they deputized their two veteran Italian stars, Tony Lazzeri and Frank Crosetti, to fetch Joe from his home on Taylor Street, and take him cross-country in Lazzeri’s new Ford. For more than a week, they’d travel on two lane roads that zigzagged from town to town, all the way from San Francisco to St. Petersburg Florida, and a mostly silent Joe gazed out the window for 3,000 miles. For DiMaggio, this was his first look at the vastness of the country he would thrill with his exploits. In a few years, he would be said to represent this land and exemplify its virtues: aspiration, hard work, native grace, and opportunity for all. The anticipation that surrounded Joe’s debut with the Yankees was without precedent. The frenzy, perpetuated amongst fans, team officials, and especially the media, was heightened by an unexpected delay as a result of a foot injury that kept DiMaggio sidelined for the first few weeks of the 1936 season. While the star rookie mended what one New York paper dubbed “The Most Famous Hot-Foot in Yankee History” the Yankee Box office got hundred of letters asking: When would DiMaggio play? The papers covered his medical exams, his every appearance at the ballpark, even satirically speculating on the new layers of skin on his foot. The New York Times ran a lively exchange of letters from readers arguing out the pronunciation of “Dee-Mah-Jee-O”. The Yanks were playing well, but not well enough: after eighteen games, at eleven and seven, they were just where they’d finish the last three years-second place. Finally the papers trumpeted the glad news: the kid would play on Sunday, May 3 against the St. Louis Browns. A crowd of more than twenty –five thousand (by far the largest since opening day) braved cool and showery weather to cheer the debut. “An astonishing portion of the crowd,” said the New York Post, “was composed of strangers to sport-mostly Italians- who did not even know the stadium subway station.” Perhaps it was these fans who rose to their feet along with the rest, whose cheers were heard above all others when young Joe, wearing number 9, made his first plate appearance-with Yankee runners on first and third. Even as Joe grounded a tame “fielder’s choice” to third, the electricity of the moment was sustained. Later, in the sixth, Joe got a hold of a pitch from “Chief” Elon Hogsett and drove it, as the Post remarked, “like a cannon shot between the center and left fielders,” and DiMaggio had his first big-league triple. The game as a whole was never in doubt: the Browns’ pitching was awful; but who cared? The daily news ran DiMaggio headlines three inches high, but in the lead tried to keep matters in perspective: “This is the story of Joseph DiMaggio, a kid from San Francisco, though it might be proper to mention that the Yankees beat St Louis 14-5, at the stadium yesterday.” By late May, Joe was leading the league with a .411 average, and the Yankees were streaking. On the last day of May, they won their fifth straight, to sweep the Red Sox (Whom they now led by four and a half games), when DiMaggio singled in the seventh to tie, and tripled in the twelfth to win the game. Almost forty-two thousand fans (including Mayor Fiorello La Guardia) left Yankee Stadium to tell of the rookie’s glory. Young Joe had to leave the ballpark in a phalanx of cops, to protect him from adoring fans. It was seldom mentioned all year that Gehrig was having a banner season, that Dickey was pounding the ball flat: or that the whole Yankee offense was producing runs at the rate of the mighty ’27 Yanks. The story was painted in bold black and white: The Yanks, resurgent, were racing toward a pennant. And the reason for the resurgence was Joe. DiMaggio and the Yanks were the story everywhere in the country. Writers in every AL town used the coming of the rookie wonder to build attendance for their local clubs. In the month before the All-Star Game, the AP baseball feature named the rookie DiMaggio seven times (Dizzy Dean, with four mentions, ranked a distant second.) Little wonder, in the count of two million ballots from fans in forty-eight states and Canada, Joe led the voting for the 1936 AL All-Star outfield. And in case anyone had missed the story, Time Magazine took the occasion of the All-Star Game to look in on baseball- and on the cover (Where portraits of Presidents and foreign Kings were the staple) there appeared a full length photo of DiMaggio, in his rookie pinstripes. The 1936 Yankees won the pennant by seventeen games, due in large part to Joe’s .323 average, 29 HRs, and 125 RBI. In the 1936 Series matchup with the crosstown Giants, Joe added the exclamation point on his extraordinary rookie campaign, hitting .346 in the six game series, helping secure a World Series title for the Yankees in his first year of service. 1936 was the first of many spectacular seasons for DiMaggio, in a career that would include a litany of immortal feats and eight more World Series rings. But for DiMaggio himself, 1936 would forever remain his darling season in baseball. His fond reflections of 1936 later in his life are well documented. Those who knew him best have recalled that a picture of the 1936 Yankees team was among the few baseball-related photographs that hung in his home. And of all the rings, hardware, and other accoutrements bestowed upon one of baseball’s most highly decorated players, it was his 1936 World Series ring he cherished above all others, worn with pride until it was removed from his finger on the day he died. Charles “Smoke” Mason For every Joe DiMaggio, whose promise is fulfilled, whose glory a nation basks in, there are thousands of Charles Masons. However, unlike most young ball players whose only commonality with the Yankee great was a deeply rooted love of the game, Charles Mason would make a serendipitous connection to DiMaggio that would bind them for most of his life.  Like most children of the Depression, Mason’s beginnings in the Ozarks area of southwest Missouri were humble. His refuge was baseball, and he quickly showed a knack for pitching that made him a standout on the local makeshift diamonds. Mason’s live arm, which earned him the nickname “Smoke”, took him to the University of Missouri, where, after his final season there in 1938, he was approached by Yankees scout Bill Essick. “Would you like to play for the Yankees”, Bill said. Mason, who hardly knew who the Yankees were, said with optimism, “Mr. Essick, I might be pleased to play with the Yankees”. What would later prove to be ironic was the fact that Essick had not only lived on the same street in San Francisco that DiMaggio grew up on, but he had also helped sign the Yankees star only two years prior.  Signed in May of 1938 for $1,300, including $1,200 to pay off school debt and $100 for his pocket, Charles Mason boarded a bus to Joplin, Missouri to play for the Yankees’ Joplin Miners farm team. When he arrived in Joplin, Mason met team manager Joe Becker, who quickly directed him to the clubhouse to be sized up for a uniform to begin working out in. As was customary the equipment manager chose a proper garment for Mason from a mound of used uniforms that had been sent down from New York by the big league club as a cost saving measure. In a decision that took but a moment of thought, with consideration given only to size and shape, Charles Mason was handed what, unbeknownst to him, would someday be looked upon as a national heirloom. Charles worked out in his designated uniform only for a few weeks before the Joplin season began and he donned the official Miners team uniform. He maintained possession of the pinstriped “workout uniform” throughout the 1938 season, keeping it in his locker, with little use for it then and virtually no sense of its significance. It stayed with him through a second season with Joplin in 1939, during which he experienced the one and only encounter of his life with Joe DiMaggio in person. During spring training in Kansas City Florida, DiMaggio, taking a break from preparing for his fourth big league campaign, paid a visit to the aspiring Yankee prospects. Mason, recalls that he was seated in the dugout along with five other players when the Yankee Clipper strolled by, pausing to greet them casually. According to Mason he simply said, “Hello fellas”, but the impact was lasting. The impression left by DiMaggio, whose legend was rooted, but far from fruition at that time, abolished Mason’s obliviousness to the old uniform, which bore this man’s name in red stitching. At seasons end, Charles asked Mr. Becker if he could keep it. Becker said “Well, what the heck are you going to do with it, Charles?” Charles said, “I need a uniform to wear when I go back to Willow Springs. We play a lot of ball down there in the hills.” Years later, Mason would reflect that his being allowed to keep the uniform was not customary; attributing Mr. Becker’s exception to his feeling that he had a good prospect on his hands in “Smoke” Mason.  Upon his return to Willow Springs in 1939, baseball became secondary in Mason’s life. His father took ill, passing away shortly thereafter, and the uniform was relegated to a closet at his parent’s house. The next drastic turn in his life came with World War II when Charles went to serve in Panama. After the war, he met and married Frances Cochran in 1950. The forgotten uniform lay dormant until sometime in the 1950’s when Frances discovered it in the corner of the closet, while helping clean out Charles’ mother’s house. Its fate resting in her hands, she opted to save what another might have deemed disposable.      Number Nine As years passed by, the game of baseball itself would continue to be pushed down the list of priorities in Charles Mason’s life in turn by marriage, children, and an alternate profession. All the while, his most tangible link to his days as a ball player was safely stored in a moth proof bag in his home. As DiMaggio evolved into the mythic figure he is today, Mason’s appreciation for the uniform only deepened. Now, at the age of 89, he has chosen to let the world know of its existence. Manufactured by Spalding, the uniform, consisting of a jersey and pants is one of only two home pinstriped uniforms issued to Joe DiMaggio for the 1936 season (He was also issued two road uniforms, one of which resides in the Hall of Fame). Tagged exclusively for DiMaggio, the uniform features red chain stitching in the collar that reads “Joe DiMaggio 9”, while similar chain stitching in the pants reads, “Joe DiMaggio 9, 36” referencing the player, uniform number, and year of issue. DiMaggio was only assigned the uniform number 9 for his rookie season, after which he would don number 5 for the remainder of his career. It is important to note that in 1936, uniform numbers were issued based on a player’s appearance in the batting order (ie: Gehrig’s number 4 denoting his position in the clean-up spot). For incoming rookies who had not established such a position within the order, numbers were assigned in ascension based on their status as a prospect. DiMaggio was so highly touted that he was issued number 9, the lowest number available to a rookie. Every technical aspect of this uniform is as it was when Joe DiMaggio made his Yankees debut with the exception of the sleeves having been cut and the customary removal of the “NY” logo from the front of the jersey, which was done upon its designation for minor league service. No other lettering was ever applied to the front, and the “NY” outline is still clearly visible on the left breast. The jersey and pants retain superb visual appeal, demonstrating substantial, but not excessive usage wear.  Team repairs appear on the pants and a few rust spots on the uniform have been cleaned. In addition to the jersey’s documented lineage, it is supported by no less than half a dozen “photo matches“. Every Yankee pinstriped flannel garment of this era is as unique as a snowflake because each jersey and pants were hand stitched, so the pinstripe patterns vary from uniform. The alignment of the pinstripes on both the pants and jersey (most readily apparent at the seams of the shoulders, collar, number, and ‘NY’ outline) and pants (waistband, belt loops, inseam) provide exact matches to several photos of DiMaggio from 1936, many of which are presented here. Among the most compelling photo matches is an image catalogued by Corbis as being taken during the 1936 World Series (shown), providing clear evidence that this jersey was worn by Joe during his first appearance in the Fall Classic. Joe DiMaggio’s full 1936 New York Yankees home rookie uniform is one of the most historical pieces of sports memorabilia ever discovered. DiMaggio became an American hero at a time when Americans had little to feel heroic about. He was an idol when America struggled with idealism. Exuding grace and elegance in a game that less than two decades prior had been blemished by a gambling scandal, DiMaggio defined an era of American resurgence, helping to pick up a  beleaguered nation by its boot straps. Years after his retirement, and even to this day, fans marvel not only at his exploits on the diamond, but also at his extraordinary traits as an American. This uniform is the finest symbol of his legacy that has ever surfaced for public sale. $600,000 and up     Provenance: A letter of provenance from the Mason family accompanies the uniform. An additional LOA is provided by MEARS. Also included is a source list and copies of uniform “photo matches”, as well as copies of Mr. Mason’s 1938 and 1939 Joplin team photographs.

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* Note that the price doesn’t correlate with today’s value, but only relates to the actual end price at the time of the purchase.

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