He was 21 years old, painfully shy and 3,000 hard miles from home. A kid, really, with none of the airs he would take on later. He’d been assigned number 18 that spring.
They knew of Joe DiMaggio in St. Petersburg, Florida, though. Signed a year earlier, the hitting star of the Pacific Coast League was finally here and ready, maybe, to fill the superstar void left by the departure of Babe Ruth two years earlier. Lou Gehrig surely could use someone to help absorb some of the pressure.
Writers, photographers, his new teammates and Yankee management got their first real look at Joe DiMaggio on March 20, 1936. In his first spring training at bat, the Italian kid from San Francisco gave them what they hoped they’d see. Thankfully for history’s sake, a photograph taken at the very moment when Joe DiMaggio got his first hit while wearing a big league uniform, came out OK. Now, an original copy of that photo with an extraordinary caption still attached to the back, is up for auction.
The 7 1/4″ x 11″ image by International News is among the headliners in RMY Auctions’ new Mega Collectors Auction, set to run through May 26. The company calls it “an important discovery.”
The photo carries a dated caption on the back, one which refers to DiMaggio as the “sensational new star of the New York Yankees.” His debut had been long anticipated and the caption writer noted that DiMaggio “disappointed no one.”
The picture may look familiar to card collectors. It’s also the focus of DiMaggio’s card in the 1936 National Chicle set and among the first trading cards ever issued of the legendary Hall of Famer.
DiMaggio would keep hitting through the rest of 1936. He belted 29 homers in just 138 games during his rookie season, a team record that remained unbroken until Aaron Judge came along.
The auction, which includes over 1,700 photos, is online now.