The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Becoming Joe DiMaggio, and a Shout-Out or Two

Recently, three different examples of art and history inspired by a love for baseball have come to my attention.

The first of these is a little book (only 51 pages) called “Becoming Joe DiMaggio.”  Written by Maria Testa, this book was first published in 2002 by Candlewick Press.  It is a “verse novel,” meaning it is actually a novella in the form of poetry.

It is written from the point of view of young Joseph Paul, a son of Italian immigrants, whose boyhood largely revolves around learning life’s lessons from his grandfather, while the daily exploits of his hero, Joe DiMaggio, inspires him to hope for a better life here in America.

The story, or more accurately, the series of poems, is set in the urban north-east of the 1940’s-’50’s.  They span Joseph Paul’s life, from birth to the day he becomes the first member of his family to go to college.  Each poem is descriptive, understated, and poignant.  Here is one of my favorite examples, which I will share in its entirety:

Saying It Out Loud

It was obvious, of course,

even though

I had never said it

out loud


I thought about it

all the time:

in the shed

on the sandlot

in school

at church

in the visiting room / on the other side / of the bars / waiting to see/ my father

even then,

I thought about it.

But I saved it for

a day

when the cheering

on the radio

was particularly loud

and I knew it was

the right time

to say it out loud:  /  I want to be / Joe DiMaggio / when I grow up.

That’s wonderful /  Papa-Angelo said,

but someone else

already is.

Although I found this book in the Juvenile section of the local public library (where I am an employee), this book is written just as much for baseball lovers who happen to be adults as it is for older children.

“Becoming Joe DiMaggio” is well-worth the time and effort it may take you to find it.  But it is a book that I believe every baseball fan will enjoy.

I also wanted to do a Shout-Out for another book, “Fifty-Nine in ’84,” written by Edward Achorn.  It is about the 1884 baseball season during which Old Hoss Radbourn won an astounding (even for that time period) 59 games.

I was first made aware of this book by a friend of The On Deck Circle, Kevin Graham.  For more information about this book, including Kevin’s excellent book review, go to my Blog Roll and click on Kevin’s blog, DMB Historic World Series Replay.  Kevin’s blog is always entertaining and informative.

Finally, another friend of mine, Cameron Watson, recently turned me on to an independent film-making company that specializes in making “little” films about baseball.  It is called Reel Hardball, and can be found at  Reel Hardball can also be found on YouTube.  You can also become a “friend” of Reel Hardball on Facebook.

I believe that three films produced by Reel Hardball have already appeared on the Major League Baseball Network, although I haven’t actually seen any of them.  I am aware that one of them includes former Red Sox pitcher, Bill Lee, a.k.a., The Spaceman. Another tells the story of an entrepreneur’s dream of bringing baseball to the Middle East.

I’ll be taking a closer look at this website myself in the near future.

So, if you thought you might be bored this weekend, now you have some baseball art and history to occupy your time.  I hope these items prove to be interesting and entertaining to you.

P.S.  To all of you who responded to my last blog-post, “Baseball, and All That We Leave Behind,” with kind words and interesting stories of your own (which can be found under my Comments section),  I thank you.


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