Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life
By Richard Ben Cramer
Reviewed by S. Derby Gisclair
No wonder we strove for more than sixty years to give Joe DiMaggio the hero's life. DiMaggio was, at every turn, one man we could look at who made us feel good.
In the hard-knuckled thirties, he was the immigrants' boy who made it big -- and spurred the New York Yankees to a new era of dynasty. As World War II loomed, Joltin' Joe became our poster boy for American can-do, with his hitting streak of fifty-six straight -- and the nation was literally singing his name. In postwar ease and plenty, he was our Broadway Joe, the icon of elegance and manly class...until he wooed and won, in Marilyn Monroe, the most beautiful girl that America could dream up. And even when he lost that girl for good, in 1962, Joe was us at the start of our decade of national bereavement.
Joe DiMaggio was a mirror of our best self...and he was also the loneliest hero we ever had. A nation of fans would give him anything...but what he wanted most was to hide the life he chose.
In this groundbreaking biography, Richard Ben Cramer presents a stunning, often shocking portrait of the hero nobody knew. It is a story that sweeps through the twentieth century, bringing to light along the way not just America's national game, but her movie stars, mobsters, pols, writers...the birth (and the price) of modern national celebrity.
This is the story Joe DiMaggio never wanted to tell -- and never wanted anyone else to tell. It is the story of his grace -- and greed; his dignity, pride -- and hidden shame. After five years of relentless reporting, Cramer brings alive, for the first time, the story of DiMaggio the man.