This Joltin' Joe is one Mighty Mite

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
-A +A
By Cecil Conley Sports Editor Football is Joe DiMaggio’s favorite pastime these days. The 7-year-old wears No. 24 as a Mighty Mites offensive lineman because the Whitney Junior Wildcats do not have a No. 5 jersey. Five happens to be his favorite number. Joe wears it in soccer and baseball in honor of a relative who passed away four years before he was born. He is well aware of how he got his name. Joe’s great-great-grandfather had a half-brother named Guiseppe DiMaggio. Their father had 21 children with two wives. Guiseppe moved to San Francisco in 1898 and had eight children. Five were boys, and three played baseball. One was quite good, earning the nicknames of “Joltin’ Joe” and “the Yankee Clipper.” The New York Yankees retired his No. 5 jersey in 1952. A young football player in Rocklin and his father, Joe Sr., have a claim to fame in their names. Joe Sr. did not think twice about choosing a name when he welcomed a son to his family. It is a tradition in the DiMaggio family for each boy to be named after his grandfather. That changed when Joe Sr.’s father, Vince, named his first son after himself to spite his father, Joe. Joe Sr.’s older brother should be Joe and Joe Sr. should be Vince. Joe Sr. brought back the tradition when he gave his name – Joseph Domonick DiMaggio – to his son in honor of his grandfather. After all, his grandfather is responsible for Joe Sr.’s knowledge of the family’s history. His grandfather was running a shoe shine shop in the Bronx, N.Y., when Dom DiMaggio stopped by one day. Dom was playing for the Boston Red Sox and was in town to face the Yankees – and his brother. Imagine how Dom felt when he came across a merchant with the same name as his sibling. Their conversation began to connect the dots. The family split into “parallel universes,” Joe Sr. said, when Guiseppe’s father remarried after his first wife passed away and began a second family. “Dom and Joe figured it out. They realized the lineage,” Joe Sr. said. “You don’t run into DiMaggios too often.” With Guiseppe’s father having 21 children, the family tree sprouted several branches. Joe Sr. and his son are two leaves. Joe Sr. is proud to share his name with an “American icon” – and his son. “People ask me if I’m related and sometimes I say, ‘No,’” Joe Sr. said. “If I’m Christmas shopping and pull out my credit card, somebody might ask about my name. It gets to be too much sometimes.” When Joe Sr. takes the time to share the connection, he often gets asked for his autograph. “I’ve signed baseball and napkins,” he explained. “I don’t know why people ask me to sign stuff.” His son is also questioned about his name, especially when it appears on his baseball jersey. Joe Sr. has taught his son how to respond to those inquiries with a short and simple answer. “I tell them I’m related to him,” little Joe said. Having such a name can be a burden at times, but Joe Sr. said he and his son have no complaints. “ I’m very proud of the name and I’m very proud of everything it stands for,” Joe Sr. said. “It’s synonymous with an American icon. It’s synonymous with everything that’s great about this country.”