Why Did Joe DiMaggio Call Himself "The Greatest Living Ballplayer?"

Why Did Joe DiMaggio Call Himself The Greatest Living Ballplayer

There’s no debating that Joe DiMaggio is a baseball legend. In 13 MLB seasons, all with the New York Yankees, he won three MVPs, nine World Series, two Batting Titles, an ML Player of the Year, and made 13 All-Star Teams. Additionally, he was, according to both himself and others, "The Greatest Living Ballplayer." Read on to learn more about the origin of this bold and unique nickname, other great players from his lifetime who contested it, and Joe DiMaggio’s other nicknames.

Origin of the Nickname

On July 29, 1969, 18 years after his last MLB season, Joe DiMaggio was named “The Greatest Living Ballplayer” by sportswriters. It is safe to say that DiMaggio himself loved the nickname, as he insisted on being introduced as “The Greatest Living Ballplayer” at future Old-Timers’ Day Games. The nickname was controversial among others, however, considering that many other great players lived at the same time as DiMaggio.

Nonetheless, the nickname stuck, and those who saw DiMaggio earn the title say he did it the old-fashioned way: play-by-play, game-by-game, and season-by-season. He did not dominate in one aspect of the game, but he excelled in all of them. DiMaggio was a perfectionist. Baseball writer Roger Angell once said, “No one else brought such presence and quiet command to the hard parts of the game, or is remembered by all who saw him play as being engaged in a private vision of his work that was offered daily for our pleasure.”

Other Great Players

DiMaggio’s “Great Living Ballplayer” nickname drew some controversy. This is because legends such as Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and many others lived at the same time as him. Mantle and Aaron, in particular, had reasons to dispute DiMaggio’s title. Mantle, like DiMaggio, played his entire career with the Yankees. From 1951-1968, he won three MVPs, a Triple Crown, seven World Series, a Gold Glove, a Batting Title, and an ML Player of the Year. He also earned 20 All-Star appearances and a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Hank Aaron, meanwhile, was also a legend on the field. In 1974, he broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714. He ultimately hit 755, a record that stood until Barry Bonds broke it in 2007. However, his impact was felt even more off the field. He spoke up against racism and broke many racial barriers throughout his life. For example, he became one of the first people of color to be hired to an MLB team’s upper-management level when the Braves appointed him Vice President of Player Development in 1982. He also co-founded the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation to help children reach their full potential.

DiMaggio’s Other Nicknames

While many know him as “The Greatest Living Ballplayer,” over the course of his baseball career, Joe DiMaggio was known by three other major nicknames: “Joltin’ Joe,” “The Yankee Clipper,” and “Joe D.” He was called “Joltin’ Joe” by fans and writers for his hard hitting. They also dubbed him “The Yankee Clipper” for his impressive skills in Yankee Stadium’s center field. Meanwhile, “Joe D.” is self explanatory.

DiMaggio was not only a legend on the field, but in the nickname category as well. Did he truly deserve the title of “Greatest Living Ballplayer?” That may perhaps be eternally up for debate, but one thing is certain: so long as baseball lasts, there will only ever be one Joe DiMaggio.