Yankee Clipper eulogized
SAN FRANCISCO -- His brother's words inside the church and the crowd's emotional farewell outside perfectly captured the two sides of Joe DiMaggio -- the quiet, dignified, reclusive man, and the Joltin' Joe who stirred fans' passions.
Dominic DiMaggio, the last of the three sons of Italian immigrants who played in the major leagues, spoke little about baseball in his brief eulogy Thursday and more about his brother's quest for privacy, his love of children and the one significant hollow in his life.
Joe DiMaggio grew up playing on the sandlots of San Francisco, Dominic told a private gathering at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, and had everything in a Hall of Fame career, except the right woman to share his life. He married twice -- in this church in 1939 to actress Dorothy Arnold, and at San Francisco's City Hall in 1954 to Marilyn Monroe -- but never found happiness in marriage.
To fill that void, Dominic said, Joe DiMaggio dedicated his life away from baseball to helping children, privately and publicly, including the establishment of a children's wing to a hospital in Hollywood, Fla.
About 80 family members and friends, along with baseball commissioner Bud Selig and American League president Gene Budig, attended the funeral Mass for the Yankee Clipper, who died Monday at his Florida home at the age of 84. The mahogany casket, set before the ornate marble altar under a golden dome, remained closed.
There were no baseball mementos, nothing to suggest the enormity of DiMaggio's impact on the game and American culture.
"It was very sensitive, very private," Selig said. "Just a day I'll remember for a long, long time."
Outside, a small crowd of about 200 came to pay its respects, and when the hour-long service ended and the hearse drove off to Holy Cross Cemetery in nearby Colma, there were cries of "Goodbye, Joe," accompanied by respectful, spontaneous applause.
One of those who came was J.D. Reynolds, son of former New York Yankees pitcher Allie Reynolds, who flew from his home in Mustang, Okla. As a child, Reynolds hung out in the Yankee clubhouse, where his father had a locker two down from DiMaggio's.
"My dad said DiMaggio was the greatest player he had ever seen," Reynolds said. "My dad said he had a great record because, when he was pitching, someone would hit one and Joe would run a mile to catch it."
Flanked by police motorcycles and squad cars, the hearse and seven limousines bearing mourners pulled up to the church at 10 a.m. on a baseball-perfect, blue-sky day. Six pallbearers, including DiMaggio's estranged son from his marriage to Arnold, Joseph Paul DiMaggio Jr., carried the casket covered with white flowers into the church.
Police barricades surrounded the church, keeping the public and hundreds of reporters, photographers and TV crews across the street by the park in Washington Square in this Italian neighborhood where DiMaggio roamed as a young man. He received his first communion and was confirmed in Sts. Peter and Paul, whose twin steeples tower over North Beach.
The Rev. Armand Oliveri, a 79-year-old priest who had known DiMaggio since the two grew up together, led the funeral Mass, which included Psalm 23, as well as readings from the Old and New Testaments.
"It was a beautiful, dignified, very calm atmosphere," Oliveri said. "The family was not upset, in the sense of (being) emotional."
Oliveri said he spoke to the mourners of "how Joe had achieved greatness, but that his real greatness was the way he carried himself."
The large, beautiful church, dark and solemn despite the light filtering through its stained-glass windows, has been visited by President Lyndon Johnson and Vice President Walter Mondale. It also was the site of funeral services for former San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto.
Church organist Lola Simi and two celebrants sang "Amazing Grace" and Schubert's "Ave Maria" among five musical works requested by the DiMaggio family.
"It was very dignified and private, just how they wanted it," Simi said.
The funeral procession passed DiMaggio's former home on Beach Street, where several fans laid flowers, on its way to Holy Cross Cemetery.
Morris Engelberg, DiMaggio's close friend and attorney, said the Hall of Famer wanted a private religious service and that his family was determined to follow his wishes. That meant excluding people such as Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
In addition to DiMaggio's son, other pallbearers were Roger Stein and James Hamra, the husbands of DiMaggio's two granddaughters; Joseph DiMaggio, son of the ballplayer's late brother, Mike; Joe Nacchio, a friend of DiMaggio's for 59 years; and Engelberg.