Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lil Prof

Dominick DiMaggio's nickname, the Little Professor, exemplifies the studious perception of the bespectacled ballplayer. With this obvious advantage in IQ, Dom was one of the best center fielders of all time- a seven time all-star in a war shortened career. He finished his stay in center Fenway with 3859 putouts in 4,095 chances, giving him a career average of 2.98 chances per game, tops for all AL outfielders. He led the league in games and putouts several times, and his intelligence in the lead off spot earned him a .383 OBP (in the top 50 all time for right handed batters) and over 1000 runs scored for his career, even after missing three full seasons due to the war (he led the league twice). I am guessing that, as a Navy man, he was frequently sea sick.

Historically overshadowed by his mythical brother, Dom nonetheless made it into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, a place his brother will never invade. Dom always seemed like the more professional, but less successful brother, who was still one up on the problem child (Vince, the "Prince of the Minor Leagues"). Bill James rates Dom as the #24 best center fielder of all time (to brother Joe's #5), but includes this ditty in his Baseball Abstract:

"Total Baseball ranks Joe DiMaggio at +51 runs as an outfielder- but rates Dom at +101, Vince at +71. 'How can he be the greatest center fielder of all time,' asks Bill Deane, 'if he's the third best center fielder in his family?"

Though Dominick was never as mythologized as Joe (who ever was?), he was just as popular (in a more regional, Boston v. NY, sense), and was able to propel those advantages into business success in his post-baseball career: he didn't need Mr. Coffee or Paul Simon to add to the interest in the bank as an owner of the NE Patriots.

And Joe thought he was so cool with that 56 game hitting streak- well, Dom had a 34 game streak in 1949, good for a tie for 10th longest of all time. Take that, Joe. He was also the only bespectacled star of the 40's, and had no real competition for that title until Bill Rigney showed up. Still, Rigney was only a part-time four-eyes; Dom was the real deal, a true blind base-ballist star.
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