Joe DiMaggio’s Hobby Show Autograph Appearances? New Book Has Few Details

“He allowed himself to be turned into a sports memorablia money machine.”

That teaser from the jacket cover of Jerome Charyn’s Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil (Yale University Press, $24) is never detailed.

The author is intent on showing that agent and hero worshipper Morris Engelberg lured DiMaggio into the hobby show circuit.

DiMaggio protested signing “Yankee Clipper” when people purchased his autograph. If a dealer angered DiMaggio, the Hall of Famer would storm away, ending the autograph session.

However, the author doesn’t bother detailing how many memorabilia shows DiMaggio attended. He never quotes a single show promoter or someone who paid and stood in line for a signature. He quotes Engelberg saying that a signed DiMaggio item could bring anywhere from $150 to $2,000 wholesale. It would have been simple to find out how much a hobby show sold Yankee Clipper autograph tickets for. How much did a promoter pay for a DiMaggio appearance — and how much did Engelberg keep?

I remember twice during my work at Sports Collectors Digest that show promoters faced DiMaggio meltdowns. Someone asked for a signature on a photo or magazine picturing him with Marilyn Monroe. Later advertisement warned attendees that these items would not be signed.

The chapter notes that DiMaggio hinted that his hobby show fees were meant to help support his two granddaughters. Also, DiMaggio gave autographed bats for birthday presents to the few friends he kept in his later years. These minimal mentions fill less than two paragraphs.

This 170-page book is heavy on speculation about the moody Yankee, but short on insight.

Head to your public library. Check out Maury Allen’s 1975 book Where Have you Gone, Joe DiMaggio? Or, seek the 2001 Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer. Spend your money on stamps and envelopes. Write to baseball history’s survivors. It’ll be faster, more fun and offer better hope of getting original perspectives on this mysterious, pinstriped icon.

Joe DiMaggio’s Hobby Show Autograph Appearances? New Book Has Few Details

“He allowed himself to be turned into a sports memorablia money machine.”

That teaser from the jacket cover of Jerome Charyn’s Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil (Yale University Press, $24) is never detailed.

The author is intent on showing that agent and hero worshipper Morris Engelberg lured DiMaggio into the hobby show circuit.

DiMaggio protested signing “Yankee Clipper” when people purchased his autograph. If a dealer angered DiMaggio, the Hall of Famer would storm away, ending the autograph session.

However, the author doesn’t bother detailing how many memorabilia shows DiMaggio attended. He never quotes a single show promoter or someone who paid and stood in line for a signature. He quotes Engelberg saying that a signed DiMaggio item could bring anywhere from $150 to $2,000 wholesale. It would have been simple to find out how much a hobby show sold Yankee Clipper autograph tickets for. How much did a promoter pay for a DiMaggio appearance — and how much did Engelberg keep?

I remember twice during my work at Sports Collectors Digest that show promoters faced DiMaggio meltdowns. Someone asked for a signature on a photo or magazine picturing him with Marilyn Monroe. Later advertisement warned attendees that these items would not be signed.

The chapter notes that DiMaggio hinted that his hobby show fees were meant to help support his two granddaughters. Also, DiMaggio gave autographed bats for birthday presents to the few friends he kept in his later years. These minimal mentions fill less than two paragraphs.

This 170-page book is heavy on speculation about the moody Yankee, but short on insight.

Head to your public library. Check out Maury Allen’s 1975 book Where Have you Gone, Joe DiMaggio? Or, seek the 2001 Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer. Spend your money on stamps and envelopes. Write to baseball history’s survivors. It’ll be faster, more fun and offer better hope of getting original perspectives on this mysterious, pinstriped icon.

Phillies Coach Billy DeMars Makes Hall of Fame Case For Fellow Shortstop Larry Bowa

Billy DeMars was a marvel. A talented batting coach long before the advent of videotape and other technological boosts, DeMars had a fan in Pete Rose. They worked together in Philadelphia, Montreal and Cincinnati. DeMars wrote:

“Pete would have been a very good manager. All he needed was more experience.”


DeMars began his 13-year association with the Phillies at the 1968 World Series. He recalled:

“I was at the World Series in Detroit in 1968 and ran into Paul Owens and John Quinn from the Phillies. As I was leaving, I told Paul Owens who I knew that if they ever needed a good person to let me know. A month later, they called and offered me a coaching job. I spent 13 yrs with the Phillies, 3 with Montreal Expos and 3 with Cin Reds.”


During his service with the Phillies, DeMars remembers one crowning glory named Larry Bowa:

“I was very pleased at what I did for Larry Bowa. He only hit one year left-handed in the minors before coming up to the Phillies. He was a very poor hitter and not much power. But we worked hard almost 365 days a year and it turned out he hit about .265 lifetime. Had 2,191 hits, 25 less than Joe DiMaggio. that’s more hits than 6 shortstops in the Hall of Fame, and he had one of the highest fielding averages lifetime of any shortstop that played the game.”

How does DeMars sum up his half century-plus in baseball?

“Baseball was my lifetime, 58 years. Every job has its ups and downs, but I still can’t see me doing anything else. It was a great ride.”

Remembering 1933-42 Yankees Bullpen Catcher Joe DiGangi, Autograph All-Star


“I only collect players!”

“He wasn’t on any cards!”

Collectors who limit themselves miss out on so many possibilities.

Exhibit A is Joe DiGangi, who passed away at age 94 in 2009.

Before you run for your baseball encyclopedia, know that DiGangi never played a major league game. However, he was a part of those great New York Yankees teams from 1933-42. For a little pay and the some of the best seats in Yankee Stadium, Joe worked as a bullpen catcher. He was there warming up a pitcher when Lou Gehrig made his “luckiest man” farewell. DiGangi saw DiMaggio’s hit streak.

Best of all, he wrote about it all! After appearing in a 2007 New York Times article, collectors tracked down the retiree, sharing his address. Joe lavished every letter with insights on Yankee greats he knew and worked with. He photocopied his scrapbook, showing himself pictured with pinstriped superstars.

Listen to a couple of the luckiest collectors, those who wrote to the non-player when they could:

Kevin Rozell writes an impressive Yankees blog. He shared an image of what Joe sent.

“He was a part of Yankees lore and one of the last people who had contact with some of the greatest players to ever put on the pinstripes. I thought his story was fascinating,” Kevin recalled.

“He sent me a nice letter, included some great photos and signed them. I sent him a letter back, thanking him for everything he sent me.”

Just look at the inspiring Edwin’s Autographs Through the Mail, and the jackpot struck with a letter to DiGangi. (The blog contains some awesome examples of customized index cards, too, but that’s a rave for another day…)

From Collector Tom Cipollo:

“Here is what Joe Digangi did for me. I wrote to him probably 3-4 times. He sent me some cards (around 10) of players in that era including catcher Bill Dickey, a photo re-print (card sized) of the Babe with Gary Cooper in 1942, a custom index card the he made or someone made for him and he signed that, a computer printout of a phote of himself with Tommy Lasorda at a game recently, another computer printout photo of Yankee Stadium and he wrote on the top of it: ” a rare photo of Yankee Stadium World Series game 1927 from Joe DiGangi bullpen catcher 1933-1942.

“I sent him a baseball to sign and he sent it back with my request of him signing it on the sweet spot with an added bonus: around the rest of the baseball he wrote players names who he had played with and a brief story/info about them. Players on this ball are Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Phil Rizzuto. In 2008, I sent him a little bit of money to thank him for everything and he responded with a 3 page letter thanking me for the money (because some people forgot to put postage on the return envelopes that he would put on for them).

In this letter included what we did after the war with his family, what his family did what his kids did, talked about moving to St. Thomas and helping to build the many resorts we all stay at when we visit there. He talked about his final move to California and how he has been there for 22 years.

At the end of the letter he wrote “hope all is well with you and I would sure love to hear from you again. I hope all my mail gets to you in good shape. Love to all Connie & Joe DiGangi.”

As evidenced in his obituary, Joe DiGangi was a classic baseball storyteller. When looking to future people to contact by mail for autographs and memories, gamble the stamps. You may get one last look at a past chapter in baseball history before the book closes.

One Batter at a Time, One Letter a Day


I could envision a rookie pitcher quaking at the sight of an all-star slugger at the plate, another in the on-deck circle and a bench full of other wood-wielding beasts. How would that harried hurler cope?

Easy. One batter at a time.

As I rejoined the autograph collecting hobby, I needed such a game plan.

I started with one goal. What would each letter seek from a current or former player? I voted against another signed baseball card, instead seeking an answer to a question about each person’s baseball career.

To be honest, that was the easy part.

Choosing the people to contact became my greatest challenge. I could be alphabetical. No, thanks. How about writing to all the oldest retirees first? The window of opportunity could close faster.

Although I’m trying to stick with that strategy, I’m straying. When I read about a fascinating moment in baseball history, from last season or decades ago, I act. Especially if I uncover something relating to my own fandom.

For now, the best I’ve done is to commit to a letter a day.

I’m no Joe DiMaggio, but this is my consecutive game streak. Just one a day. More is fine. However, I know one missed day can turn into a hobby-less week. Or month.

I’ve been amazed at the candor and detail of each letter I receive. I’m sure that sticking a tape recorder in someone’s face wouldn’t produce the same quality memory. It’s up to each respondent to write his history, his way.

How do you keep your hobby growing, while keeping the rest of your life in balance?

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