The Great Joe Dimaggio was one of my boyhood baseball heroes along with Hank Greenberg and the Babe!
When I grew up in the 1940's baseball was the true National Pastime.Like many American boys, of the era,some of my heroes were baseball players and Joe Dimaggio topped my list!
Little did I imagine,in the years 1946-1951,the year Joe retired from baseball, that I would many years later, meet my boyhood hero Joltin Joe Dimaggio!
In the late 1970's Joe came to Philadelphia.for an operation and to visit old friends.
I had a close and dear friend and mentor who was not only Joe's friend but his doctor and surgeon! as well.(How wonderfully serendipitous life can be!)
The doc (as we called him) and I were in his office, at a hospital where he was CEO, when the doc turned to me and said "How would you like to meet Joe Dimaggio?"
Before I could answer The doc opened a door,from his office,to an ajoining sitting room;and there in the flesh watching news on Tv was Joltin Joe Dimaggio my boyhood hero!
"Joe",said the doc,"I want you to meet Steve"!
"Glad to meet you. Any friend of the doc is a friend of mine";said Joe ,as he extended his hand to shake my hand.
"Are you hungry Joe? I know Steve and I are. My driver is waiting in the car lets go"; said the doc!
The doc,Joe Dimaggio and me all got in the car. Doc deliberately got in the front seat,with the driver,and there I was sitting next to my hero,from Olympus, in the backseat of the car!
I do not recall the conversation in the car on the way to the eatery, but I remember vividly the Dimaggio smile and how soft spoken he was!
The "Restaurant" was a private members only club that specalized in Sicilian Food.The club was located on the first floor of a row house in South Philadelphia.
The inside of the "club" consisted of an ancient bar running along one wall and 8 or nine equally ancient wooden "dining" tables.No checkered table cloths or any table cloths or flowers here.
The owner of the Club was also the chef,who had spent the better part of the morning preparing his specialty for Joe Dimaggio.The doc had called the night before to make sure the food would be superb.
We each took a seat at the largest ancient table,the table reserved for honored guests!The doc on one side of Joe and me on the other side;the table as round in shape!
The owner chef kept popping in and out of the kitchen with a blow by blow description of the culinary preparations!The conversation was now about Food and Italian and Sicilian food in particular
Finally the great meal arrived at the table.The owner chef lovingly brought each dish to the table personally with a flourish and panache only rivalled in ancient Rome when seving food to an Emperor!
We all began to dig in to the many wonderful foods placed before us family style.
Joe noticed that we had no Napkins.We had everthing else including Sicilian wine and a special wine opener but no Napkkins!
Just at that moment an ancient woman, who worked as a sort of waitress in the club, appeared.She wore a printed frock and shuffled her feet slowly across the floor as she"walked"
"Miss Can we have some Napkins Please",Joe Said.There was silence in response."Miss Please bring us some Napkins" Joe said in a firmer voice!
The ancent woman shuffled up to the table looked Joe in the eye and said "This Ain't no Restaurant" and I don't serve Napkins!
Joe began smiling that Dimaggio smile and then burst into hearty laughter, as we all did.
"Of course this Ain't no Restaurant Its was more like a private italian home kitchen", Joe said. Whereupon joe got up went into the kitchen and brought us all a pile of Napkins!
Of course The food was superb that day! Any food would have tasted superb when you share it with your greatest boyhood baseball hero Joe Dimaggio!
I was privileged to spend parts of a few more days with Joltin Joe and to share a few more meals in very upscale restaurants. I will always remember with love and great fondness Joe, the Doc ,The Napkins and Me!
Original story by Retired Esquire
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Dimaggio Photo from Sams Locker Room