For the many Americans who wished they could have spent a day in Joe DiMaggio's shoes, rest assured they weren't very comfortable. At least, not in the man's twilight years, which he spent selling his autographs and his presence while attempting to guard his privacy. To judge by his diaries, life as a celebrity is overrated.
Perhaps diaries isn't the proper description of DiMaggio's handwritten papers - approximately 2,400 pages amassed by his former attorney Morris Engelberg and preserved in 29 binders available for purchase on www.steinersports.com - because they contain few reflections and emotions other than annoyance. According to Brandon Steiner, the CEO of Steiner Sports Marketing, bids starting at $1.5 million will be accepted for the complete work through July 25, at which time the memorabilia company will decide how best to dispose of the collection. "I think it's worth $3-$4 million," said Steiner, who added he was contemplating whether the public's interest would be best served by offering individual pages to fans.
"Do you break this up?" Steiner president Jared Weiss echoed during the announcement Monday at Gallagher's Steak House, where a caricature of DiMaggio is joined with other famous customers on a mural in the main dining room. "Does it belong in a museum?"
This much is clear. It is not the subject for a racy novel. "This is not a tell-all," Weiss conceded.
The drudgery is in the details. DiMaggio began the exercise in 1982 to account for his expenses over an 11-year period, and many pages - some of them recorded on hotel or airline stationary - conclude with a list of his costs for the day. Indeed, hotel bills and airline boarding passes are among the items included. Even a state dinner at the White House celebrating a treaty signed by President Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev sounded thoroughly commonplace when viewed through DiMaggio's eyes. He complained about spending two hours in Washington searching for a tuxedo shirt to fit his thinning neck.
If DiMaggio ever exhibited a sense of wonder, he must have saved it for the ballfield or his romance with Marilyn Monroe. Speaking of Monroe, she is said to be mentioned only twice and then in matter-of-fact terms. Of course, their relationship was anything but, and DiMaggio never was comfortable with the fuss their union caused.
Whitey Ford, the Hall of Fame pitcher who was DiMaggio's teammate for half a season, recalled that the famous couple occupied a bungalow next to Ford and his wife in Redington Beach, Fla., while Joe was serving as a spring training coach. He said they all were out sunning one day when the wife of Harry Caray, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals who shared St. Petersburg, Fla., with the Yankees, told people on the beach where they could find Marilyn, and a parade for autographs ensued.
"I felt bad for them," Ford said. "They had to leave the beach."
Marv Schneider, who co-authored a DiMaggio book with Engelberg four years after the great player's death in 1999, said the pages were strewn on the floor of the lawyer's closet when they were collaborating on "Setting the Record Straight."
"(Engelberg) said, 'Maybe this will help,"' Schneider recalled Monday.
"No," Schneider said.