Picks and Pans Review: Joe Dimaggio
by Richard Ben Cramer
The exquisite myth of the late Joe DiMaggio—graceful and godlike on the baseball field, regal and mysterious off it—has endured for 64 years, since his first season with the New York Yankees in 1936. But like his incredible 56-game hitting streak, the spell was bound to end, and Cramer is the cold-blooded stopper.
An indifferent father, a wife batterer, a friend to gangsters—this is hardly the Yankee Clipper Paul Simon yearned for in "Mrs. Robinson." Cramer, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, spent five years digging into DiMaggio's Mob ties (they set up a secret bank account for him), his possessive love for Marilyn Monroe (the couple planned to wed a second time) and his unquenchable lust for a buck (Cramer suggests Joe even lied about losing his nine World Series rings and sold them instead).
Revealing and entertaining as it is, Cramer's bio, in the end, is also unspeakably sad. "We cheered him for never giving himself entirely to us," he writes of DiMaggio, yet the sordid truth leaves us a hero short. Let's hope Derek Jeter doesn't know any wiseguys. (Simon & Schuster, $28)
Bottom Line: Joltin' portrait of Joe