Fact Check: Marilyn, Joe and the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Joe DiMaggio’s induction at the Baseball Hall of Fame (1955)

As many fans will know, Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio remained close long after their brief, stormy marriage came to an abrupt end. However, as David Mikkelson points out in an article for myth-busting website Snopes, even museums get their facts wrong sometimes.

“Several years ago I finally undertook a long-awaited pilgrimage to that mecca of sportsdom, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum founded in Cooperstown, N.Y., by Stephen Carlton Clark. Like so many fans before me, I spent a couple of days scrutinizing every exhibit, photograph, document, and other pieces of memorabilia on display at the museum, and then … wondered what the heck else there was to do in Cooperstown. And again like so many fans before me, I ended up at the second-best-known attraction in town, the nearby Farmers’ Museum.

The proprietor’s spiel was to recount a brief history of Stephen Carlton Clark’s role in the establishment of the Hall of Fame and the Farmers’ Museum, and to note that after founding the former, Clark lived in New York City and didn’t return to Cooperstown for the yearly induction ceremonies — save for one exception. That exception was the year Joe Dimaggio was inducted to the Hall, an occasion for which, the proprietor declared, Clark returned to Cooperstown ‘in order to meet Dimaggio’s wife, Marilyn Monroe.’

I immediately recognized a chronological problem with that account: Joe Dimaggio was inducted into the Hall of Fame on 22 July 1955, but he and Marilyn Monroe had separated, with the former filing for divorce, in October 1954. Although the pair remained on relatively friendly terms afterwards, Monroe wasn’t present at the July 1955 induction that welcomed the Yankee Clipper into baseball’s hallowed halls.

On that day Joltin’ Joe was accompanied not by a glamorous starlet, but by a Yankees official … Photographs and newsreel footage of the event also reveal no evidence of the Blonde Bombshell’s presence in Cooperstown that day … For the record, no contemporaneous accounts of the ceremonies mentioned the presence of Clark in Cooperstown that day, either.”

‘Marilyn on the Ball’ Sold for $491,748

LeRoy Neiman 3

A baseball painted with Marilyn’s image, and signed by Joe DiMaggio, has sold at auction for nearly $500,000 – wildly exceeding the original estimate of $6,000, reports the Miami Herald. ‘Marilyn on the Ball’ was sold via Heritage Auctions by collector Charles McCabe, to whom it was inscribed.

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Sports artist LeRoy Neiman created a series of one-off baseballs painted with athletic legends.  “A special piece is a 1992 ball of Marilyn Monroe that is signed ‘To Charlie, Best Wishes, Joe DiMaggio,'” the Wichita Eagle noted. “‘What makes it rare is that DiMaggio, who was briefly married to the actress, famously refused to sign anything related to her,’ the auction house said.”

A small print of Neiman’s portrait, also inscribed to McCabe, was also included in the sale.

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The DiMaggios

The DiMaggios: Three Brothers, a new book by Tom Clavin, explores the family dynamic of Joe, Dom, and Vince DiMaggio, all legends in the world of baseball. It’s available to order now in hardback, and published on May 14 via Kindle.

“Paul Simon famously asked: ‘Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?’ Clavin — author of bios on Roger Maris and Gil Hodges — also wonders about Joe’s older brother, Vince, and younger brother, Dominic. Vince, a two-time all-star, paved the way by going against their fisherman father’s wishes by ‘wasting time’ playing ball. He had difficulty making ends meet after baseball. Superstar Joe, who had difficulty adjusting to his ill-fated marriage to Marilyn Monroe, was famously private. Dom, a seven-time all-star center fielder for the Red Sox, became a successful businessman and family man, and was the best adjusted of the brothers — whom Sox teammate and friend Ted Williams always said belonged in the Hall of Fame.”

Dale Robertson 1923-2013

Actor Dale Robertson died on February 27th in San Diego, aged 89. He was suffering from lung cancer.

Best known as a television actor, Robertson starred in Tales of Wells FargoThe Iron Horse, and as a host on Death Valley Days. In later years, he appeared in Dallas and Dynasty.

In his 2012 book, They Knew Marilyn Monroe, author Les Harding wrote that Dale had been preparing for a photo shoot with a young Marilyn when her agent, Johnny Hyde, nixed the idea. Hyde was in love with Marilyn, and did not want people to think she and the handsome actor were involved.

Dale also appeared in the episodic film, O. Henry’s Full House (1952), but in a different segment to Marilyn’s. However, they did become friends, and were photographed together on September 15th at a charity event, the Hollywood Entertainers’ Baseball Game.

Biographer Michelle Morgan interviewed Robertson for her 2007 book, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. ‘We would go to ball games together and she was very pleasant company,’ he recalled, ‘but we were never boyfriend and girlfriend because we just weren’t attracted to each other.’

Fifty years later, Robertson remembered sensing a sadness in Marilyn. ‘She had a rough time for a while,’ he said, ‘and her biggest enemy was herself.’

After hearing of Robertson’s death, Morgan wrote in her blog, ‘I won’t pretend that I was close to Dale Robertson, in fact I never spoke to him again after I had interviewed him back in 2006, but he was such a lovely person that I truly felt very blessed to have been in touch with him, no matter how short our association had been.’

Dean Chance Remembers Marilyn

Dean Chance, ‘perhaps the greatest high school pitcher ever’, was at the Dodger Stadium on Marilyn’s last birthday, when she attended a benefit match for Muscular Dystrophy, reports the Washington Examiner.

‘”In 1962, we’re playing a game in Dodger Stadium on June 1. They put up on the big scoreboard, ‘Today a special happy birthday!'” he said. “I was thinking it was mine. But who was it? Marilyn Monroe. The only time I ever met her.”‘

Albie Pearson Remembers Marilyn

 Albie Pearson – former centre-fielder with the Los Angeles Angels – told the San Bernardino Sun about a strange encounter with Marilyn, possibly at Yankee Stadium where she made her final public appearance on her 36th birthday, June 1st 1962:

‘”In the summer of 1962 there was some sort of charity function at the stadium and I’m selected to escort a celebrity to home plate for a pre-game presentation,” Pearson said. “So I go out to the dugout and they tell me the person I’m going to walk to home plate is Marilyn Monroe.

“Now I am nervous. So I ask, `Where is she?’ And it turned out she was standing over in the far corner of the dugout, completely in the shadows. And she’s pale and shaking and I’m thinking this can’t be Marilyn Monroe, the famous movie star.

“Anyway, we’re called out to home plate and I thought I would have to drag her out of that corner. But once she hit that top step of the dugout she became Marilyn Monroe the movie star, smiling and waving. I was simply amazed at the transformation.

“Well, we finish the presentation and I walk her back. Now, this whole time I never said a word to her and she never spoke to me. Once we’re back in the dugout, she turns back into this shy, withdrawn person.

“And the strangest thing, all this time I have these Bible verses running through my mind. Marilyn Monroe and Bible verses. Talk about God working in mysterious ways.

“As she’s leaving, she suddenly turns to me. And she says, `What is it you are trying to tell me?’ And I was just absolutely speechless. She looked so lost and lonely and I felt I needed to say something, but what do you say to Marilyn Monroe?

“It was a haunting experience, but I went on and played that game. We finished the homestand and went on the road and, I think this was in New York, I go down to the lobby to get a morning paper and there’s the headline `Marilyn Monroe Commits Suicide.’

“And I knew right then that God had plans for my life, bigger plans than just being a ballplayer. I didn’t save Marilyn but I could save others. I had to save others. So I prayed and turned my life over to God.”‘

When ‘Spud’ Murray Met Marilyn

Meredith W. ‘Spud’ Murray, a pitcher for the New York Yankees from 1960-68, died at home in East Waterford, PA, earlier this month. Writing for the Delaware County Times, Ed Gelbhart recalled a conversation with Murray in which he spoke of meeting Marilyn (probably while Joe DiMaggio was training the Yankees in St Petersburg, Florida, in 1961.)

‘Mr. Murray had a thousand stories, like the time all the players were eating at the same hotel during spring training. The great Joe DiMaggio, by now a batting instructor, entered the dining room a little late. He surveyed the scene, noticed an empty seat at Mr. Murray’s table, and decided to eat with him that night.

Later that spring, Mr. DiMaggio introduced “Spud” to Marilyn Monroe.

“Wow, ‘Spud,’ what did you think of Marilyn?” I once asked him.

“Spud,” a master of understatement, simply replied, “She seemed like a nice girl.” ‘

Class of ’42: Norma Jeane and Pepper Davis

Lavonne ‘Pepper Paire’ Davis, a wartime star of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, attended University Senior High School, West Los Angeles, at the same time as Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known as Marilyn Monroe.

Born in 1924, Davis would probably have been two academic grades above Norma Jeane, who briefly attended from February to June 1942, when she left to marry Jim Dougherty. It’s therefore unlikely that the girls knew each other well, although Davis admits, ‘People still call to buy my yearbook.’ University High has often been used as a location in films and TV.

University Senior High, Los Angeles

Interestingly, Davis worked at Lockheed Munitions Plant after leaving high school. She was studying English at UCLA (where Marilyn would later take night classes) when a baseball scout picked her for the team. Davis travelled across America with the All-Stars, earning just $55 a week.

Jim Dougherty had worked at Lockheed in 1941, when he first met Norma Jeane. After Dougherty joined the Merchant Marine, Norma Jeane worked at the Radioplane Munitions Factory where she was first discovered by photographer David Conover. After finding fame in Hollywood as Marilyn Monroe, she married one of baseball’s all-time greats, Joe DiMaggio, in 1954.

Described on Wikipedia as ‘a fine defensive player with good range on the field and a strong throwing arm’, Pepper played with the All-Stars from 1944-53. She was portrayed by Geena Davis (no relation) in the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own, and her autobiography, Dirt in the Skirt, was published in 2009.