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Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  3,262 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Joe DiMaggio was, at every turn, one man we could look at who made us feel good. In the hard-knuckled thirties, he was the immigrant boy who made it big—and spurred the New York Yankees to a new era of dynasty. He was the Yankee Clipper, the icon of elegance, the man who wooed and won Marilyn Monroe—the most beautiful girl America could dream up. Joe DiMaggio was a mirror ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published October 2nd 2001 by Simon Schuster (first published 2000)
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3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,262 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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Jill Hutchinson
Probably the greatest baseball player to ever grace the sport, he was a god to his fans, a man who could never do anything wrong. But in reality, Joe DiMaggio was a very complex and not very nice man who hated to be among his fans but yet craved fame. He strove for perfection but did not enjoy all the things that came with it.....except for the money. His association with his "organization" (read "the mob") ensured that he never paid for a thing from meals to cars and some of his financial affai ...more
Geoff Smith
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good biography of a not so very good man, who was, however, a great baseball player. I loved the story about how Joe got MM out of a psych hospital:

For Marilyn this was the worst fear of her life come true, she was locked away like her mother, a prisoner in a loonie bin. After three days, when she was finally permitted one call, she phoned to Florida. she called Joe DiMaggio. He was there the next day, at the Payne Whitney reception desk, six feet, one-and-a-half inches tall, wide at the shoul
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
Richard Ben Cramer's Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life is a bruising exposé of a strange man. Off the diamond he was deeply flawed, on it he was a god. DiMaggio was, in baseball parlance, a “five tool” player. He could slam homers, hit well over .300, run like an antelope, nail a runner at home plate from center field, and catch any ball in the outfield. Above all else, he was a winner. Unfortunately Ben Cramer's account of his private life and personal character reveal him as repellent. DiMaggio wa ...more
Stolen from my dad's library, I discovered two things. 1). Joe DiMaggio was kind of a greedy bastard. 2). He really did love Marilyn Monroe. Of course, Marilyn Monroe was what initially drew my attention to this biography. The Marilyn chapters were my favorite. I really did think they loved each other, but it just didn't work out. I loved the fact he put roses on her grave every week until he died. Now that's devotion. That and his phenomenal baseball playing might just redeem him from his gree ...more
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent biography. The only nitpick--and it is a minor one--is that the thirty years between Marilyn Monroe's death and the 1989 San Francisco earthquake are ignored. Reading further, though, let me know everything I needed to know about those years. This as thorough an examination of a somewhat reclusive enigma as you will ever read.

Richard Ben Cramer must be commended for his research. It is clear the author truly loves and admires his subject, but he did not hide the negatives from the read
Nov 05, 2010 rated it did not like it
I couldn't imagine liking a book about DiMaggio less. He captures none of the magic that made DiMaggio great.
DiMaggio enriched the lives of millions, and acted with grace and with class. No doubt he was a complex person, with faults, and was the product of his environment. This book could have been very interesting and informative to those of us not alive during those years. Instead, we get the hatchet. The book lacks balance, depth and complexity, and was written in a disparaging way.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really knew nothing specific about Joe DiMaggio coming to this book; just the merest whiff of Marilyn Monroe and that one Simon and Garfunkel song. For me, he fell into that strange category of "great but not particularly interesting" historical figures, even given my personal love of baseball: not as charismatic as Babe Ruth or godlike as Sandy Koufax or as socially relevant as Willie Mays or Jackie Robinson. I'm not sure that I appreciate him any more having read Cramer's book. It isn't that ...more
Tommy Ventre
Jul 09, 2010 rated it liked it
"A nickel was something to hold on to in Joe's world."

Hats off to Cramer for not falling victim to rosy, mushy sentimentalism when it comes to DiMaggio. So many men of Cramer's age do just that, but the bottom line is that the dude was a paranoid, deranged, cheapskate, abusive asshole. Probably not even worthy of having a journalist the caliber of Cramer write about him, aside from the fact that he really was the best baseball player in history. But this is in no way a baseball book. It's more a
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am a Mantle guy. Always have been, always will be. So my fan-to-athlete relationship with DiMag has always been one of weary side-eye and respect. But, this beautifully written, comprehensive biography has changed all that. I read this book immediately after reading the wonderful Last Boy Mantle bio by Jane Leavy. As great as that book was, The Hero's Life was superior. I enjoyed every aspect of this biography and would actually read it again, which is not something that I say often (especiall ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: baseball fans, biography readers
This is certainly a different look at Joe DiMaggio. The athlete who was always considered the epitome of class turned out to be (according to Cramer) a crude, womanizing cheapskate with a very bad temper when crossed. All of which would probably make him not a lot different than the worst of today's professional ballplayers. (It is certainly interesting to speculate how different The Yankee Clipper's legend would have been had he played in today's age of social media and constant press coverage. ...more
Eddy Allen
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it

Joe DiMaggio was, at every turn, one man we could look at who made us feel good.
In the hard-knuckled thirties, he was the immigrant boy who made it big -- and spurred the New York Yankees to a new era of dynasty. He was Broadway Joe, the icon of elegance, the man who wooed and won Marilyn Monroe -- the most beautiful girl America could dream up.
Joe DiMaggio was a mirror of our best self. And he was also the loneliest hero we ever had.
In this groundbreaking biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning jo
N.N. Light
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all baseball fans and especially Yankee fans
I love this book. I had read it more than a decade ago and chanced upon a copy when on vacation in the summer and had to have it in my collection. This is the unabashed story of Joe DiMaggio. Anyone today who subscribes to the half baked sabermetric approach that DiMaggio is barely a top 20 all time player needs to read this book. DiMaggio drove himself to stardom. In his prime there was no one better at playing baseball. He was an incredible hitter, runner and fielder. His personal life was tro ...more
Feb 28, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm always fascinated by the history of the game and my goal is to read as much about the game that I love as I can. I didn't know much about the Great Joe DiMaggio before I read this book, and boy did I learn a a lot...and the majority of it was-he wasn't very nice. This book was very slow in parts, but once you got to his retirement and his business dealings, it got very interesting. If you want an eye-opening look into one of baseball's all time greats, then give this a read. It's definitely ...more
Nicolo Yu
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
A well researched biography of baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. It covers his childhood in San Francisco, his rise in the minors and prime as the alpha Yankee of its greatest dynasty. But you can never tell a DiMaggio story without his queen, Marilyn Monroe and how it ends so tragically.
Though the latter chapters was like wading through treacle, the chapters that cover his Yankee years were the best and the ones I enjoyed the most.
This makes me get up and go out look for more hidden sports gems at
Daniel Nelson
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One of the best biographies I have read. It pulls no punches in looking at the life and times of Joltin Joe DiMaggio. There are memorable passages such as DiMaggio's hitting streak, his own view of entitlement, his approach to the game and relationship with Marilyn Monroe. A complicated hero and a very interesting account of one of the great ball players of all time. The off the field passages about DiMaggio are as fascinating as those describing the Yankee Clipper on the field. You won't be dis ...more
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it
The last third of the book really dropped off. Up until then, it was a really good detailed read.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has received a wide range of ratings and reviews: people love it, or they hate it. I can see both sides of the issue, though I'm much closer to the positive on this book.

It opens with a very telling anecdote about DiMaggio's competitiveness, cheapness and distrust of everyone -- all themes that come up again and again in the book. It's the classic situation showing the pettiness of a great man, a man of power. But then the book moves into lovely, evocative descriptions of DiMaggio's ch
Lukas DiGeronimo

Movie stars and celebrities are some of the most sought out people in the world. Without them who knows what would be some people’s passions. Perhaps the reason people know anything about a guy named Joe DiMaggio is because he dated Marilyn Monroe. Who would have known anything about this guy, especially before he impacted the game of baseball. He was a poor kid growing up in California. This was in fact before California became a very expensive place to live. What a story, coming out of nothing
Kristy Olsgaard
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because it came to my attention that my father's first cousin Violet Koski, the blonde gal from San Francisco, is mentioned on pages 60-62. After reading to that section, I wondered if she'd ever be mentioned again so I continued. Since DiMaggio was retired before I was born, all I knew was he was a great player and loved Marilyn. What an eye opening read! My opinion of Joe was like a roller coaster ride. It changed often. The anticipation of a rising talent coming of age in so ...more
Much of this book seems intent on piercing the dimaggio yankee legend by relating tales of his controlled image, his aloofness, cheapness and generally not very exciting personality. For someone who grew up idolizing dimaggio, I’d imagine this kind of thing might be breathless and shocking reading, but for a more modern reader in today’s day and age such as myself, this type of thing elicited a general shrug of the shoulders. This book, while generally very readable, also took a few unnecessary ...more
Brent Soderstrum
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Have you ever read a book where you didn't like any of the people in it? Sadly enough that is the case with this book. Cramer tells a story about an ego-maniac who was also one of the greatest baseball players ever. Joe DiMaggio was a cultural icon who won world championship, was married to beautiful women (including Marilyn Monroe) and had songs written about him yet as described in the book Joe was a greedy, self-centered man who hardly ever paid for anything including food, lodging and entert ...more
Larry Hostetler
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Very interesting and thorough. The book seemed to be the result of extensive research, all the more impressive as one reads about the lengths to which DiMaggio went to protect his privacy.

I learned much from the book, and found it to be compelling and yet complete. As I read the acknowledgements I realized the extent to which DiMaggio's life had already been chronicled, and was even more impressed.

This book seemed to neither be a hagiography nor an attempt to show DiMaggio as having feet of cl
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a baseball fan, the name Joe DiMaggio has such strong connotations, the 56-game streak, the Ted Williams rivalry, the glory days of the Yankees and of course Marilyn Monroe. I never knew much about him, and clearly what I did think I knew was the mythology of the hero. As it turns out, if this biography is to be believed (and there's nothing that causes me to believe it shouldn't be), Mr. DiMaggio was not a nice man. He treated his friends poorly, was cheap as dirt, and a man with a short and ...more
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports-biography
A well-written biography about one of the most famous baseball players of all time. Joe D was a real messed up dude and if he lived today with the current media he would probably be a Tiger Woods type pariah. His reputation is much better than he deserves since he failed at all the important things in life apart from baseball and making money. The one thing lacking in this book were what happened to Joe from 1962 to 1989. For some reason the author chose not to cover this time of his life. I fel ...more
Paul Gleason
May 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a gossipy tome about a great ballplayer who was a bad man.

Cramer has a condescending writing style that is most likely an attempt to imitate the thought process of a man for whom he obviously doesn't care. This use of style, I guess, gives the book some aesthetic merit.

But the problem is that Cramer gets bogged down in providing way too much detail about DiMaggio's personal life (he really does come off as a bland version of Cobb and not very likable) and not a whole lot about baseball.

Mark Loring
Aug 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Hey, I'm a RED SOX fan and I still liked this book. That says A LOT!
Laurie Hoppe
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
Joltin' Joe still holds the record for baseball's longest hitting streak. 56 games in 1941. Two solid months of hits. It was the highlight of a career defined by grace and achievement.

He was also lonely. And stunningly cheap (for starters, he didn't want anyone to know he smoked; not because he was a role model, but because he didn't want people cadging cigarettes or matches). And moody. He didn't really care for Lou Gehrig and he was jealous of Mickey Mantle. He dismissed Ted Williams as "Tantr
Peter Corrigan
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Below is my Amazon review..perhaps I was a little harsh on Joe in rereading..I don't know.
A Little Jolting--
Rare when I can say I am to young for something anymore. But I was too young to have ever bought into the DiMaggio legend. He was an ex-Yankee star (among others) when I was growing up as a NY Mets fan and hated most things Yankee. And he sold coffee makers. Enough said. Cramer makes a nice case for how incredibly good Joe was though, and the actual baseball part is the most enjoyable in t
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very comprehensive biography of Major League Baseball’s most iconic player. He dominated the game, carried his team to more championships than any other player, and in his graceful movements, made it look easy. He played well before my time, and I have only seen him on film, but this book reveals that he was better than we probably thought he was. He played hurt, and was an incredible clutch player too.
He was a curmudgeon, grouchy, rude and at times unkind. He was not a team player. He was sel
Austin Gisriel
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A well-written, riveting read, that is like sitting down with a guy who really KNEW DiMaggio and having an intense, fun, fascinating conversation. I love the style in which this book is written, vulgarities and all; indeed the vulgarities are quite apropos.

This book does a fine job of capturing the mood of the nation as DiMaggio explodes on the baseball scene in 1936 and explains why fans of that generation idolized him. Cramer makes the point that beyond his skill, it was his relentless pursuit
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Richard Ben Cramer was an American journalist and writer. He won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1979 for his coverage of the Middle East. His work as a political reporter culminated in What It Takes: The Way to the White House, an account of the 1988 presidential election that is considered one of the seminal journalistic studies of presidential electoral politics.