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Friday, March 11, 2011
5 Questions: The Joe D Book

By Andrew Marchand

It was 70 years ago that Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 games. Author Kostya Kennedy, from Sports Illustrated, has written a new book called 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports. Over e-mail, we asked Kennedy five questions about DiMaggio.

Q: What is the coolest thing that you learned about Joe DiMaggio?

A: That he had two real fears when he went out in public. One was that everyone
would pay attention to him. The other was that nobody would.

Q: Why do you think this was?

A: He was insecure about his own think-on-your-feet intelligence and was very
conscious of his image, so a lot of attention made him uneasy. A lot of
attention like that can mean a loss of control of your environment. At the same
time Joe liked being on a pedestal; he carried himself almost regally and was
used to people responding.

Q: What is the best anecdote that most defines what happened during the streak?

A: There's one thing I got from a guy who was driving across country with his
friends in 1941. They were from New York. Teenagers. They followed the streak as
best they could on the road. Local papers, radio. One early morning deep into
the streak they were in a tiny town in Montana and they went into a little
breakfast shack to get eggs. While they were there this leathery rancher walks
in. He nods at the guy behind the counter and just asks, "Did he get one?" And
the counterman said, "Yes, he got one." No one even had to say his name.

Q: That is cool. What was the toughest aspect of the streak for DiMaggio?

A: He internalized things, so just the weight of the streak sitting on him day
after day was tough. He smoked a lot of cigarettes. His stomach started to hurt.
Handling the press was also tough for him. He didn't like having to go on too
long with a reporter. He'd lean on his teammate Lefty Gomez to guide him through
interviews.

Q: What current player most reminds you of DiMaggio and why?

A. Derek Jeter. He has a certain economy of movement on the field. And he plays hard. He's so even-keeled, for the most part. And he's a little remote. All of those are DiMaggio traits.