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DiMaggio's Memorial Is Like the Man

Baseball: Service in New York for legendary Yankee is simple and elegant.

April 24, 1999|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Through six decades of public scrutiny, Joe DiMaggio epitomized class and dignity, style and grace. On Friday, New York bid farewell to the Yankee Clipper at a St. Patrick's Cathedral memorial imbued with those same traits.

There were celebrities--Woody Allen, George Steinbrenner, Henry Kissinger--but the altar was sparsely decorated, with a few tasteful sprays of flowers. There were only two speakers, one-time teammate Bobby Brown and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

"This will be a very simple service," promised Cardinal John O'Connor.

And it was. Simple and elegant, much like the man it remembered.

"I would suggest that rarely was there ever seen such consummate skill, grace, power, speed and dignity in one person," Brown told an overflow crowd at the Manhattan church.

"I know Joe is in heaven," Brown continued. "I suspect there's a committee up there right now trying to determine when to retire his number."

Seated in a front-row pew were Yankee owner Steinbrenner, Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, former Secretary of State Kissinger and Giuliani. Opposite them were DiMaggio's two granddaughters and his longtime friend and lawyer, Morris Engelberg.

Other celebrities included singer Michael Bolton, comedian Joe Piscopo and sportscasters Bryant Gumbel and Bob Costas. Fellow Yankee Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto sat behind Berra; nearby was ex-Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca.

DiMaggio, the Yankees Hall of Fame center fielder, died March 8 at 84 of complications from lung cancer. Though he was buried in his native California, family and friends wanted a service in New York, where the shy son of an immigrant fisherman catapulted to national prominence.

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