On This Day In History | 1951
On this day 61 years ago Joe DiMaggio announced his retirement. After a season in which he batted .263, the lowest of his career, the Yankee Clipper decided to unlace his spikes for good. In the latter years of his remarkable career he was slowed by a variety of injuries including bone spurs in both heels and a bad right shoulder, and a player with as much pride as DiMaggio would simply not play a day longer if he felt like he could not perform at the highest level. Joe’s brother, Dom, explained that, “He quit because he wasn’t Joe DiMaggio anymore.”
However, DiMaggio was still well enough to lead the Yanks to a 3rd consecutive World Series crown in 1951. He homered in game 4, went 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs in game 5, and doubled, scored a run, and walked twice in game 6. After the Yanks clinched the crown with a 4-3 win in game 6, DiMaggio told his teammates in the locker room, “I’ve played my last game.”
In an afternoon press conference on December 11th, the Clipper announced to the world that baseball’s brightest star of the 1940s would be leaving the game.
I said last spring I thought this would be my last year. I wish that I could have had a better year. But even if I had hit .350, this would have been my last year for me, anyhow. You all know I’ve had my share of injuries and setbacks during my career. In recent years these have been too frequent to laugh off. When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game. And so, I’ve played my last game of ball.
DiMaggio retired as the greatest center fielder in baseball history. He was an all-star all 13 season of his Hall of Fame career, he won 3 MVPs, hit 361 home runs, and had a career batting average of .325.
Listen to the audio clip of DiMaggio’s retirement speech here.