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“Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio

1941 Play Ball
“Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio

Commandeering a “Yankee Clipper” On the Shores of Cape Cod


There Once Was A Time

When Every Town Had A Team

 Every Team Had A Star

 Every Boy Had A Dream


Author’s Note: This is the second in my series of baseball card stories.  Since my first story focused on Mickey Mantle, I thought it only fair to give equal time to the Yankees great he replaced; “Joltin Joe”, “The Yankee Clipper”, “Mr. Coffee”, a.k.a., Joe DiMaggio.


Framed 1938 R.J. Reynolds Camel Cigarette ad from my Personal Collection

I find it an interesting insight into an era.


     Joe DiMaggio patrolled center field for thirteen illustrious pinstripe seasons during the course of his Hall of Fame career.  He first donned Yankee pinstripes in 1936.  Ten American League Pennants, nine World Series Championships, 3 MVP trophies (‘39, ‘41, ‘47), 13 All- Star games, 2 AL Batting, Home Run and RBI Championships, 361 career home runs and a 56 game hitting streak later (not to mention his 61 game hit streak in the minors!), he finally retired after the 1951 season.

     He missed three years to the Air Force (1943-45) during World War II in the prime of his career.  He was so revered as a player that his request for a combat assignment was denied by higher ups. Instead, he spent three years playing exhibition baseball stateside, despite his protests.

     He had a much-publicized romance with movie star Marilyn Monroe. They were even married at one point, briefly, but it lasted only nine months before she filed for divorce. (Just think, for one brief nine inning moment, there’s an outside chance Joe DiMaggio may have been my great uncle by marriage!)

     In 1947 “The Yankee Clipper” nearly became “The Boston Whaler”.   The Red Sox and Yankees had reportedly reached an agreement to swap superstars, Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams.  The only reason that trade never happened? The Yankees refused to “throw in” a young catcher named Yogi Berra.

     Joe DiMaggio was enshrined in The Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. The Yankees retired his #5 uniform.

     In his later years he became the familiar face of “Mr. Coffee.”  Joe DiMaggio passed away March 8, 1999.  Many baseball fans consider Joe DiMaggio to be the greatest New York Yankee player of all time.

     Joe DiMaggio’s 1941 Play Ball card is also widely considered to be one of most important baseball cards of all time.  It is highly sought after and coveted.

1941 Play Ball
Card Front

1941 Play Ball
Card Back

1941 “Play Ball”

Card #71, Joe DiMaggio

In 1941 “The Yankee Clipper” went on a 56-game hitting streak.

It’s a Major League record that stands to this day.

DiMaggio’s 1941 Play Ball Card is #12 on PSA’s list :

“The Top Twenty Most Important Cards in the Hobby”


     The 1941 Pay Ball set consists of 72 cards. It’s a noteworthy set for a number of reasons, one of which is it’s the only major baseball card set that features cards of all three DiMaggio brothers!

     Joe’s older brother Vince played outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates that season. His younger brother Dom (a.k.a. “The Little Professor”), was in the second season of what was to become a stellar eleven-year career with the afore mentioned Red Sox.

     So, how did I come into possession of such a key card?  It happened quite unexpectedly, while our family was vacationing one summer on Cape Cod.

     We were in Provincetown, shopping, when I spotted a card store along a side street wharf. Of course, I had to go inside, although not until after my wife confiscated my wallet.

     I was like a kid in a candy store browsing shelves filled with chocolate bars.  I bought a few vintage cards. Nothing special really, what collectors call “commons”.  

     There was one card however, that really had my eye. A nice 1941 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio, sitting separately from everything else, in a protective screw down card holder on its own display shelf.

     The proprietor could see that I was seriously interested. He took the card down from its perch and let me hold it.  My hands were shaking.  I stared in awe.  The price listed for that card was so out of my range that I was afraid to even make any offer.

     I didn’t have to. The proprietor remarked;

     “You’re holding a Joe DiMaggio card. This is Massachusetts.” He then made me an offer that reflected his loyalties.

      It was still a lot of money for a young father of three, but we were on vacation, and after some further negotiating, (with both the proprietor and my wife), we reached a tentative contract agreement. My wife on how we might finance my “Cape Cod vacation souvenir”, the proprietor on a final “Yankee Clipper in Ted Williams Territory” price.

       I couldn’t believe it! I was going to actually own this card. Legend.

     “Good thing they never made that trade.”, I mused quietly. “There would have been a second tea party rebellion in Boston if the Sox had ever traded Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio.”  I suspect Yankees fans would have felt much the same way.

     After I got that card, it sat prominently for several years as a stand-alone display on my shelf. At some point I made a move and reunited Joltin’ Joe with his brothers.  Those three cards make one of the nicest displays I will ever own.


     Folks often ask me; “How much is that card worth?”

     My response?  “How much will you pay me for it today. Oh, never mind. It doesn’t matter.  NOT FOR SALE.”

     Joe DiMaggio was a Hall of Fame center fielder. His baseball cards have long been highly sought-after Yankee treasure in New York.

      The best places to commandeer “Yankee Clippers” just might be Boston Harbor, or in baseball card shops on the shores of Cape Cod.

  The true value of a baseball card can’t be measured in dollars.


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