Joltin' Joe, Refusenik


Joe DiMaggio and the doctors

Was the immortal Yankee Clipper a hypochondriac? The Smoking Gun digs up a document so hot it could have led to an American defeat in World War II—a 1945 medical report depicting Staff Sergeant Joe DiMaggio as, literally, a bellyaching malingerer:

Despite a cushy job as a physical instructor in the Army's Special Services division, DiMaggio–who saw no combat, was never shipped overseas, and spent many months stationed in Hawaii–exhibited a "defective attitude toward the service" and a "conscious attitude of hostility and resistance" when it came to his Army duties.

These withering critiques of DiMaggio came from two officers in the Army's Medical Corps. In separate reports written shortly before DiMaggio's discharge in September 1945, Major Emile G. Stoloff and Major William G. Barrett each portrayed DiMaggio, then 30, as someone whose "personal problems appeared to be of more consequence to him than his obligations to adjust to the demands of the service." At the time, DiMaggio had just divorced his wife, who had custody of the couple's young son. He was also distressed with his brother's operation of a California restaurant in which he had invested, terming his sibling's moves "a double-cross."

Joe DiMaggio inducted

Depending on how much you believe an individual owes to the state, the full report may either sour or sweeten your opinion of Joltin' Joe, a prickly figure even under the best of circumstances. I'm pretty sure there must be something wrong with a man who inspired some of the most excruciating prose/poetry ever to come out of Ernest Hemingway, John Fogerty and Simon and/or Garfunkel (to name just a few), but I found myself pretty much rooting for Number 5 throughout. He'd been in the Army Air Corps for nearly three years, by his own description used only for useless exhibition baseball games and nebulously defined physical training tasks. That he blamed the demands of military service for his inability to salvage his troubled marriage may have been a weak excuse, but it's hard to blame a 30-year-old for wanting to live the life of a grownup rather than do time on a base in Atlantic City.

Throw into the mix that DiMaggio's parents—permanent residents who became U.S. citizens during the war—were tagged as enemy aliens and prevented from traveling or pursuing a livelihood, and it's pretty thick to expect the Clipper to stand up and cheer for a war effort that scotched what would certainly have been three of his best seasons. The best you can say is that Ted Williams had it even worse.

Then again, maybe his stomach ailment was just the result of eating the scampi at DiMaggio's On the Wharf:

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  1. The Greatest Generation? is beyond reproach. They’re way better than The Pepsi Generation. And don’t even get me started on Generation Y.

    1. What about “Generation Obama,” as I’ve heard it been called…

      1. That would be Generation X – bunch of frigging slackers. 😉

        1. I thought that was Generation Hope.

  2. –who saw no combat, was never shipped overseas, and spent many months stationed in Hawaii–

    Stationed in Hawaii with no combat, paid to keep fit and be famous? Sounds pretty fucking fantastic if you ask me. Biggest celebrity within a 3,000 mile radius. That guy probably got more tang than an astronaut. Him and Duke Kahanamoku.

  3. A) That era of applied Freudianism was really weird. They should have read his early stuff more closely. “They” still should, in fact.

    2) “Fluoroscopic evidence of duodenal deformity.” \m/

  4. Am I alone in the opinion that nobody’s medical/military/other private records should be “open to the public”? No matter how many years it is since they died?

    I thought MYOB was pretty close to a core libertarian value.

    1. No you are not. And it bugs me to. Privacy ought to be pretty high on the things respected by libertarians.

  5. Greatest living baseball player my ass.

    1. Cryin’ about his ex-wife like a sissy, and I’m the one they won’t let in?

      1. He did go on to marry Marilyn Monroe, so I guess he recovered.

  6. Ted Williams definitely had it worse.

    There were some whiners back then too, but still, that might have been the greatest generation anyway. Then again, maybe it just seems that way compared to the hippy Boomers.

    It’s hard to compare it to an all volunteer Army (backdoor draft notwithstanding). They didn’t need to draft Pat Tillman. I’d put him and his contemporaries up against any of ’em, greatest or not.

    Not that there weren’t a world of awesome Americans who fought in Vietnam, but the hippies sucked though.

    They still do. The Greatest Generation may still be up for grabs–but the hippies sucked, any way you slice it.

    1. Check out my greatest generation. Now that everything we fought for has been pissed away.

  7. Original version? 😉

    Major Emile G. Stoloff [of Boston] and Major William G. Barrett [of Brooklyn] each portrayed DiMaggio, then 30, as someone whose “personal problems appeared to be of more consequence to him than his obligations to adjust to the demands of the service.”

    1. I wonder if their perceptions of his personal problems related to him kicking their team’s ass for so many years.

      1. Very funny!

      2. LOL

  8. “exhibited a “defective attitude toward the service” and a “conscious attitude of hostility and resistance” when it came to his Army duties.”

    So in other words, he’s a libertarian.

    1. So in other words, he’s like the entire Army, according to Catch-22.

    2. Sounds like me in the Navy. Then again, I never got written up, so what the hell, I must be a hero.

    3. Nowadays they’d just force Ritalin on him.

  9. Gotta give Joe D. a pass on this. He was at the a peak age for his profession and was taken away from it by the Army. I am sure his complaints were similar to those of many other soldiers who gave up much less than he did.

  10. According to Army psychologists, Joe DiMaggio was suffering from acute anxiety because he wasn’t able to figure out the answer to a puzzling philosophical question: How could the nation turn its lonely eyes to him if nobody seemed to know where he had gone?

    (I’m so very sorry if you now have a tune stuck in your heads – try to ignore it).

  11. Elvis did better than Joe

  12. Depending on how much you believe an individual owes to the state…

    How much do you owe someone who routinely steals a third of your productive output, without your consent? How much do you owe someone who goes around the world creating enemies and calls it “national defense”?

    1. The answer is blowing in the wind?

    2. I originally read that as “who routinely steals third”.

    3. What does any slave owe his master? Let’s start with a Louisville Slugger upside the head. Next, a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.

  13. damn Yankee

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