Intro by BallNine’s guest columnist and resident Joe DiMaggio expert, Cate Gierak
It was the most highly anticipated wedding at the time.
The bride was Marilyn Monroe, the stunning blonde actress who was a rising star at the time. The groom was Joe DiMaggio, the retired Yankee centerfielder – a man who had become a cultural icon and earned his place in the history of the game with his natural grace, power, and skill; and, of course, that unforgettable 56-game hitting streak.
The pair had met in March 1952, at Villa Nova in Los Angeles, after Joe had seen a photograph of Marilyn posing with Philadelphia Athletics outfielder, Gus Zernial. Joe learned from Gus that press agent Dave Marsh had set up the publicity shoot and reached out to Dave to set up a date with Marilyn.
Marilyn was hesitant at first, expecting Joe to be a “stereotypical arrogant athlete;” but she was surprised to find that he was a quiet and reserved gentleman, who “didn’t make a pass at me straight away.” A week later, the couple went out on their second date, after which they embarked on a long distance relationship. Though they tried to keep it private, news of their relationship eventually leaked and became widely covered by the press.
On January 14, 1954, the couple married in a small civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall. Since it was a second marriage for them both, they couldn’t have a traditional church service, and Marilyn did not wear a traditional wedding gown. Nevertheless, several hundred reporters, photographers, and fans were gathered outside after news of the ceremony had been leaked earlier that day by Harry Brand, head of publicity at 20th Century Fox.
Despite their strong connection and love for each other, however, their marriage seemed doomed from the start under the pressure of the subsequent media frenzy, Marilyn’s hectic filming and publicity schedule, and Joe’s jealous and controlling behavior.
Perhaps most notable was the fight the couple had in September 1954 while Marilyn was filming the The Seven Year Itch in New York City. In the now iconic “subway grate” scene, Marilyn stood over a subway grate with air from below blowing her white dress up high in the air. The film’s publicity department had revealed the time and location of the shoot, resulting in a large crowd of onlookers and photographers showing up. Director Billy Wilder shot more than a dozen takes of the scene, and with each take the crowd became more boisterous and unruly. Joe, who also happened to be on the set, grew increasingly irate at the sight of his wife being ogled and cheered on by the crowd. After the shoot was finished, the couple fought on the set and the argument continued back at their hotel, where it reportedly turned physical.
Soon afterward, in October 1954, Marilyn returned to Los Angeles and filed for divorce from Joe, citing reasons of “mental cruelty.” Their marriage had lasted just nine months.
Nevertheless, their story didn’t end there. After Marilyn’s divorce from her third husband, Arthur Miller, in 1961, Joe re-entered her life and the two re-kindled a friendship. Joe even came to his ex-wife’s rescue and secured her release from a psychiatric hospital after she was forcibly institutionalized. He tried desperately to bring stability to her life, but to no avail.
On August 5, 1962, Marilyn died from an overdose of barbiturates. A heartbroken Joe, with the help of her half-sister Bernice Baker-Miracle and her business manager, Inez Nelson, arranged her funeral.
For the 20 years that followed, Joe arranged for a half-dozen red roses to be delivered to her crypt every week, honoring a promise he had made to Marilyn before their wedding. He refused to discuss her publicly ever again, and he never remarried. On his deathbed in March 1999, his famous last words were “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn again.”
Before we move on to this week’s edition of The Stud 400, here’s look at the last five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:
270.Pete Alexander sets rookie win record with 28 (1911)
269. Phillies outbid Yankees for Chuck Klein (1928)
268. Nick Adenhardt dies (2009)
267. Ralph Kiner hits 54 home runs (1949)
266. Joe Musgrove fires first Padres no-hitter (2021)
And now, here’s Episode XXVIII of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.
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Joe DiMaggio marries Marilyn Monroe (1954)
The beauty of The Stud 400 is that it mixes every aspect of baseball in popular culture with on-field accomplishments. Baseball isn’t just a game played to a final result, it’s an ongoing story that has been more than 150 years in the making. When talking about the “tapestry of the sport,” the wedding of DiMaggio and Monroe must be included, even if it actually occurred after DiMaggio had retired. DiMaggio and Monroe were married for just 274 days, but it is such a huge part of DiMaggio’s legacy. You can’t tell the story of baseball history without Joe DiMaggio and you can’t tell the story of Joe DiMaggio without Marilyn Monroe.
Oakland A’s Mustache Gang (1972)
If you’re one of those perpetually butthurt baseball fans who bristle at the Yankees’ conservative personal grooming requirements, you may want to sit down when you learn about the 50-year period between 1920 and 1970. During that time, it was an unspoken rule that ballplayers needed to be clean shaven with their hair kept short. During that time, just two players had worn mustaches for brief periods of time. Dick Allen also pushed some boundaries prior to the Mustache Gang as well, because who was going to tell Dick Allen what he should look like?
As American culture began to change, it was only a matter of time before that trope was tested. Reggie Jackson and the 1972 Oakland A’s were the person and team to do it. The story goes that Jackson showed up to Spring Training in 1972 with a mustache and threatened to grow it into a beard by Opening Day. Owner Charlie Finley and manager Dick Williams asked Jackson to shave and when Jackson refused, Finley got creative. Instead of starting a war with his superstar, Finley began a campaign to encourage other teammates, coaches, and staff to grow their own mustaches. In theory, this was to prevent from Jackson looking like an individual; if everyone had a mustache, then he wouldn’t stand out. The idea caught on like wildfire; not only changing the way the A’s looked, but ushering in an era of expressive athletes who weren’t afraid be colorful out there on the field. The Mustache Gang A’s of 1972 went on to win their first of three World Series titles and birthed the handlebar mustache of Rollie Fingers.
Nap Lajoie sets batting average record by hitting .426 (1901)
The formation of the American League was not a joint venture with the National League; far from it. In an effort to enhance their status as a new Major League, the AL did their best to poach stars off NL teams to give their newly formed league credibility. When the AL began play in 1901 however, not many stars made that initial jump. Nap Lajoie was the first offensive superstar to jump leagues when he agreed to leave the Philadelphia Phillies for the newly formed crosstown rival Philadelphia Athletics.
Although his competition might not have been that great to begin with, Lajoie’s 1901 season is one of the most incredibly dominant seasons anyone in either league has had. Lajoie led the AL in hits (232), runs (145), doubles (48), home runs (14), RBI (125), OPS (1.106), slugging (.643), and on base percentage (.463). He also struck out just nine times in 544 at bats. What lands Nap in The Stud 400, though, is his .426 batting average, a mark that still stands to this day. Lajoie outpaced batting crown runner-up Mike Donlin by .086 points and he remains one of just two American League players to ever have a batting average as high as .420 (George Sisler being the other).
Deion Sanders plays in World Series and Super Bowl (1995)
You don’t need The Stud 400 to tell you Prime Time is simply one of the greatest athletes of all time. In high school, Sanders wasn’t just a nationally-recruited defensive back. He was good enough at baseball to be drafted by the Kansas City Royals and was a standout basketball player. How good was he at basketball? Sanders once injured himself on a dunk—when he cut his eyebrow open on the rim. At Florida State, he had to give up basketball, but he replaced it by running track. Sanders, of course, developed into a Hall of Fame cornerback and had a pretty damn solid nine-year baseball career as a hobby.
On October 11, 1992, Sanders played on all three units for the Falcons against the Dolphins, returning two kickoffs and a punt, catching a pass on offense and playing his usual stellar pass defense against Dan Marino. He then jumped in a helicopter and made it to Pittsburgh in time to dress for that night’s NLCS Game 5 for the Braves against the Pirates. Sanders didn’t appear in that game, but he made his presence felt in the subsequent World Series for sure. Sanders went 8-15 with two doubles and five stolen bases, although the Braves lost to the Blue Jays in six games. When Sanders appeared in the 1995 and ’96 Super Bowls, he became the first person to ever play in a World Series and Super Bowl.
Bobby Cox sets ejection record (2007)
When talking about Major League Baseball’s unbreakable records, you typically hear the names Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young, Rickey Henderson, and Cal Ripken. Guys who put up numbers that don’t seem fathomable considering the way the game is played today. One guy who never gets mentioned in this context, though, is Bobby Cox. The cantankerous Hall of Famer was ejected a record 162 times in his managerial career, 41 more times than the second place manager, John McGraw, who managed from 1899-1932. Last year, the active leader was Tony LaRussa, who has 93 ejections in 37 seasons. Bruce Bochy is the current active leader with 77 and he’s not catching Cox. The truth is, nobody is. With the implementation of replay and the imminent arrival of robot umpires, ejection opportunities simply won’t be there going forward the way they were for Cox. The record happened in August of 2007 when Ted Barrett tossed Cox for arguing a called strike on Chipper Jones.
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Stay tuned for next week’s episode of The Stud 400 as we rifle through the pockets of a suspected cheater, soft toss our way into the record books, and take a look at the longest game ever played. We also examine whether or not a promotion can actually work too well. So get your hard hats ready, because we’ll be in for an explosive time on the next Stud 400.