The lawyer for Joe DiMaggio's estate lashed out Thursday at the Yankee legend's younger brother, saying that Dom DiMaggio has no business criticizing his attempts to keep San Francisco from naming an old neighborhood playground in honor of its famed native son.
Attorney Morris Engelberg of Hollywood, Fla., said the two brothers were estranged for years and Dom DiMaggio has absolutely no say in how his late sibling should be memorialized by their hometown.
"Dom doesn't know his brother," said Engelberg, Joe DiMaggio's close friend during the slugger's final years in Florida. "Joe died in my arms, not Dom's arms. Dom was off socializing."
Engelberg made his remarks a day after Dom DiMaggio criticized the lawyer for threatening to sue if San Francisco renamed an old North Beach playground in honor of the famed Yankee Clipper, who died last year at the age of 84.
"I know how Joe felt about Dom. There was no feeling. Zero," Engelberg said. "I was like Joe's son. Dom was jealous of the relationship we had."
Engelberg said he regrets the controversy in San Francisco, but still believes the city's efforts to find a suitable honor fell short. "San Francisco is a great city," he said. "Name a little hospital wing for him, an ICU. He'd say yes in a heartbeat.
"This is very emotional to me," he added. "I'm trying to do what Joe would have done."
Dom DiMaggio, a resident of Ocean Ridge, Fla., quickly returned fire, saying that the attorney should not presume to speak for his brother.
"How can he possibly know Joe better than me? He knew him 16 years, I knew Joe all my life," said Dom DiMaggio, a seven-time all star with the Boston Red Sox. "I grew up with the guy. I lived with him. I knew him like a book."
Dom DiMaggio said that he settled any differences with his brother before Joe's death and that he suspects the Yankee great would have loved having his name attached to their old playground, where they spent countless hours learning the skills that propelled them to the major leagues. "I don't know how he couldn't have liked it."
The continued feuding comes as San Francisco officials press forward with plans to honor Joe DiMaggio at the North Beach playground. There is also talk of attaching his name to ball fields in Golden Gate Park and in the Marina district, where the slugger lived for years after his baseball career.
Supervisor Gavin Newsom, who has pushed for a DiMaggio memorial, had a phone conversation Thursday with one of the center fielder's two granddaughters, the surviving heirs. Newsom said the talk went well and they seemed to reach "common ground."
The granddaughters, Catherine Stein and Paula Hamra, live in the Bay Area and have been pained by the media brouhaha over a memorial to their grandfather, an American icon for his great career with the Yankees, his 56-game hitting streak and his short-lived marriage to screen star Marilyn Monroe.
Newsom said San Francisco's city attorney has concluded that any legal threats by Engelberg wouldn't hold up in court. Several San Francisco law firms have offered free services to the city if a suit materializes, he said.
City officials will probably direct future discussions on the memorial to the granddaughters, skirting Engelberg.
"Mo knew Joe DiMaggio well," Newsom said. "I certainly respect that, but he may not have known his every wish and desire."