Joe DiMaggio Jr., the only child of baseball great Joe DiMaggio, died late Friday at a hospital in the Northern California town of Antioch, apparently of natural causes, hospital officials said Saturday. He was 57.
He was the only son of DiMaggio and Dorothy Arnold, an actress whom the sports legend married in 1939. The athlete had no children with his second wife, Marilyn Monroe.
The younger DiMaggio was estranged from his father and had seen him infrequently over the last few years. However, he was one of six pallbearers at the March funeral of the “Yankee Clipper” in San Francisco.
DiMaggio Jr. was not breathing and had no heartbeat when he was taken by ambulance to Sutter Delta Medical Center late Friday, a hospital spokesman said. Attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful.
The younger DiMaggio, who was living in nearby Pittsburg, had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and got into several minor scrapes with police. He also experienced periods of homelessness.
Joseph Paul DiMaggio Jr. was born Oct. 23, 1941, in San Francisco. After his parents divorced three years later, he spent much of his early life in summer camps and military schools, including the now-defunct Black Foxe Military Institute, a few blocks west of Paramount Studios in Hollywood. It was known as the school of choice for the sons of Hollywood celebrities.
As he entered his teen years, the youth split his time between his mother, who was pursuing her acting career in Hollywood, and his father, who had begun seeing Monroe. Young Joe and Monroe were reportedly close, and the boy often accompanied the couple on dates.
He spent his high school years at a prep school in New Jersey, where he shunned baseball to play football. He was the kicker on the team and by all accounts a bright student. However, his father, who was living in New York, had little time for his son and never saw his games.
Young DiMaggio enrolled at Yale University as a freshman in 1960 but quit after the first year because he had grown to hate the Eastern winters. He returned to Los Angeles and worked at odd jobs before deciding to join the Marine Corps.
Despite his father’s divorce from Monroe, young Joe remained close to the actress. He phoned her about 8:30 on the night of Aug. 4, 1962, to tell her that he had broken off his engagement to the daughter of a wealthy San Diego contractor. The next day, DiMaggio Jr. learned that Monroe had died from an apparent overdose of drugs and alcohol.
He attended the funeral, which was closed to much of Hollywood, wearing his dress Marine uniform.
After Monroe’s death, he finished his enlistment in the Marines and married a 17-year-old girl from San Diego, but the union lasted just a year.
Returning to civilian life, DiMaggio Jr. took a series of odd jobs and eventually moved to the East Coast, where he worked for his uncle Dom DiMaggio, the onetime great outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, who owned a polyurethane foam company near Boston.
That is where the younger Joe met and wed Sue Adams, who had two daughters from a previous marriage. He eventually moved back to California to run a polyurethane foam business for his father and two business partners.
Joe DiMaggio Sr. grew attached to his son’s stepdaughters and doted over them as a grandfather.
Working for his father proved problematic for the younger DiMaggio, who felt that no matter how hard he worked he could never do anything right in his father’s eyes. That led to bouts of drinking and fights with his wife that often left her battered and bloody. Drugs came next, particularly speed. The business was lost and the couple divorced in 1974.
Two years later, DiMaggio Jr. was seriously injured in an automobile accident, and a piece of his brain had to be removed because of a blood clot. That surgery seemed to make him even quicker to anger and to have less control of his actions.
His father tried to help him recover, buying him a $75,000 Peterbilt truck cab, but he wrecked the truck and by the late 1980s was working odd jobs and living in a trailer near Martinez, Calif., his father’s hometown.
In his only known on-the-record interview in recent years, DiMaggio Jr. spoke with the tabloid television magazine show “Inside Edition.” In the interview, broadcast Feb. 11, he explained why he had not gone to the side of his ailing father when he was fighting cancer in Florida.
“You know, I never got the words ‘Come now,’ or I would’ve been there in a flash,” he said. “I love him and just all of the things that are felt, but never said, between people. When he wants me there, I’ll be there.”
Although DiMaggio Jr. did not subsequently see his father before he died, his two stepchildren were at the baseball great’s bedside, along with Dom DiMaggio and two other friends.
DiMaggio Sr. left his only child a $20,000 annual trust fund in his will, signed in 1996, the year the two reportedly last saw each other. He also bequeathed his son 45% from the sale of his firm, Yankee Clipper Enterprises.
He left the two girls he considered his grandchildren considerably more.
Another Joseph DiMaggio, the son of the baseball legend’s late brother Mike, was left $100,000. That Joe DiMaggio made something of a name for himself as a chef, with restaurants in Florida and Toronto.
On Saturday, Marie Amato Goodman, a cousin whose son was a close friend of Joe DiMaggio Jr., said he was simply unable to cope with his father’s fame.
“He had a brilliant mind,” Goodman said. “He lived in the shadow of his father and could not rise above that.”