Joe DiMaggio visits Rhein-Main
Stars and Stripes May 19, 1962
RHEIN-MAIN, Germany —The Yankee Clipper landed at — appropriately enough — Rhein-Main Air Base here Friday in the person of Joe DiMaggio.
The former New York Yankee great, now touring Europe as public relations director for the V.H. Monette Co., which sells various products in PXs and commissaries, visited this base's commissary and elementary school during the morning. In the afternoon he was scheduled to hold forth at nearby Frankfurt's food emporium.
When DiMaggio was asked, during a hotel interview, the obvious question of who he thought would win the current flag race in the American League, the affable ex-slugger replied with a smile on his deeply tanned face:
But it's much more than prejudice that prompts the Hall of Famer to pick his former team. DiMaggio gives an assist to the Yankees front office for making the right kind of trades that strengthen the team in key spots from year to year.
Over in the National League, he feels it should be the Giants, representing his hometown of San Francisco. Again, it's not a case of prejudice, Joe insists. He liked them even in spring training, long before they proceeded to compile their imposing record atop the senior circuit standings.
Joltin' Joe cites the Giants' power as one reason for his choice. He notes also that their pitching staff is shaping up very well, and that the team has good bench strength.
Did Joe like to see the home run record of another Yankee, Babe Ruth, topped by still another Yank, Roger Maris?
Joe coined a phrase: "Records are made to be broken." He believes Maris will have a better year average-wise in 1962, but that his homer and RBI output will take a dip from last season.
Does he believe anyone will snap his own record of hitting safely in 56 consecutive games? DiMaggio thinks so. And it'll be someone who doesn't miss too many balls while swinging — someone like Willie Mays or Al Kaline.
The thrill is gone
The Yankee Clipper has no regrets about not having been connected in any way with baseball since his retirement from the sport. "I lost the thrill after I stopped playing," he explained.
When asked whether his forthcoming trip to Russia (he flies to Moscow Sunday) was on business or for pleasure, Joe responded:
"Out of curiosity. It should be interesting to see how the other world lives.
"But I have no intention of telling Khrushchev how to run his country," he added with the familiar DiMaggio grin.
DiMaggio's tightly packed schedule has allowed him no time to see the sights of the various countries he's visited. He's autographed papers and various sorts of baseball gear in France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and several cities of Germany since his arrival in Europe May 3.
And after his return next Wednesday from his Russia trip, DiMaggio's itinerary includes Spain, England and other parts of Germany before he flies back to the United States on June 8.
The enthusiastic reception that DiMaggio received from the 350 boys who packed the assembly hall of Rhein-Main's elementary school was surprising, to say the least. The average age of the pupils was 11, meaning that they were born around the time the former slugger had established his fame and retired from the sport.
Mobbed by kids
At the conclusion of his talk, during which he demonstrated hitting techniques and answered questions from the floor, DiMaggio literally was mobbed by the youngsters seeking autographs and eager to shake the Hall of Famer's hand.
After his grueling penmanship session, DiMaggio's only lament was:
"I wish I had more time to sign things for these kids. You know, I'd rather autograph such items as bats and balls, because the kids won't keep a scrap of paper for long."
In that latter observation Joe may be just a bit mistaken. It would probably take a large denomination of another "piece of paper" — good old U.S. folding money — to induce the possessor of a Joe DiMaggio autograph to part with it.
Especially if the youngster's Dad had a thing to say in the matter.
EDITOR'S NOTE: DiMaggio called the matchup in the World Series, which the Yankees won over the Giants in seven games. He was right about Maris' totals falling (home runs from 61 to 33, RBIs from 142 to 100), but Maris' average also fell, from .269 to .256. As for DiMaggio's hitting streak being broken, his prediction that it would happen still hasn't been fulfilled.