Monday, September 8, 2008


One of the figures mentioned in the play to characterize 1942 is Joe DiMaggio, "the Yankee Clipper," "Joltin' Joe." The baseball star who married Marilyn Monroe, DiMaggio became an icon for later generations, too ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you": Paul Simon's song for The Graduate in 1967.)

After his record 56 game hitting streak in 1941 (he actually hit safely in 72 out of 73 straight games), a record that still stands, Joe DiMaggio didn’t have a good year in 1942 for the New York Yankees. His marriage was coming to an end, and he went into a protracted batting slump. But he still managed to bat .305 for the season.

DiMaggio’s parents were Italian immigrants, and in 1942 they were classified as enemy aliens, with their movements highly restricted. Italy was an ally of Germany in 1942, and German U-boats were patrolling off U.S. coasts, sinking ships. His father was a fisherman in San Francisco, and authorities seized his fishing boat. Many Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans, particularly those in California, had their property seized and were sent to distant internment camps.

Joe DiMaggio enlisted in the Army Air Force in early 1943, and spent the next 31 months in the service (although he was not sent overseas.) Many athletes enlisted or were drafted, so professional sports teams would eventually become so depleted that some combined or stopped playing altogether.

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