‘A Dream of a Book’ – Chicago Tribune on ‘DiMag & Mick’

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DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers by Tony Castro, Lyons Press, 271 pages, $24.95

This is a dream of a book. Castro, author of perhaps the best biography of Mickey Mantle, “America’s Prodigal Son,” takes on the myth that in 1951, Joe DiMaggio, in his last season, snubbed the rookie who would replace him in center field for baseball’s greatest dynasty. Castro offers a revisionist history of the friendship of the two Yankee greats. Castro reveals a fascinating bond where others, over the decades, found no relationship at all. He also puts a fresh perspective on the fame of both Joe and the Mick, quoting Hollywood journalist James Bacon: “Joe and Mickey had more in common with Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and the idols of celebrity than they did with the life into which they were born … It’s what came with what they did so wonderfully well with the inevitability of their success.”

Castro has a fine eye for the revealing detail. Near the end of Mantle’s career at a Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee Stadium, DiMaggio, looking splendid in late middle age, “walked with his customary grace from the dugout on to the field.” Then, as he waved to the cheering crowd, the Yankee Clipper noticed Mickey’s mother, Lovell, standing off, almost ignored, to one side. DiMaggio unexpectedly cupped her elbow in his hand and escorted to where all the players and dignitaries were lined up along the infield grass.”

But DiMaggio’s dignity gave way to scorn a few minutes later when he saw Robert F. Kennedy in the Yankees dugout: “DiMaggio despised both Bobby Kennedy and his brother … for their romantic involvement with Marilyn Monroe.” Snubbing Kennedy, “DiMaggio turned his attention to Mickey and the fans there to honor him. ‘I’m proud,’ he announced, ‘to introduce the man who succeeded me in center field in 1951.'”

“DiMag & Mick” grants us insight into Mantle, quoting from interviews and letters of Holly Brooke, Mickey’s secret girlfriend in the 1950s. Ms. Brooke’s memories of Mickey should temper our own recollections: “Mickey just wouldn’t tell a lie. He would try not to hurt anybody. I don’t know how many people you can say that about.”