Book Review - Dinner With DiMaggio

Dinner With DiMaggio  by Rock Positano & John Positano

Dinner With DiMaggio is a thoughtful 350 page compendium that chronicles the last ten years of Joe DiMaggio's life as seen through the eyes of Dr. Rock Positano, DiMaggio's best friend in New York City during that period.

The book is, at once, touching, informative, revealing, and brutally honest.  The reader gets a feel for who Joe DiMaggio was as a person, and aging legend, during his golden years. Through the text, the reader begins to understand what drove DiMaggio to be the great ballplayer that he was, and how, through his own exacting standards, he maintained his public dignity and revered status as an American icon through to the very end.

The author, Dr. Rock Positano, became Joe DiMaggio's trusted friend and confidant after helping DiMaggio get relief from the heel pain caused a premature end to his playing career. decades earlier.  As their friendship grew, DiMaggio opened up with Dr. Positano about aspects of his life that this reviewer had never known despite being a long-time and extremely well-read follower of the New York Yankees.

While the book does not focus specifically on Joe DiMaggio's playing days, Dinner With DiMaggio does share recollections about some of the players and events that shaped DiMaggio's career. This reflection is not a play-by-play of the famous games or pennant races that DiMaggio was part of, rather, the reader is brought back to those times through various anecdotes about specific players.  Dr. Positano  maintained extensive notes from each visit with DiMaggio and he draws upon those notes as he shares Joe DiMaggio's personal feelings about players such as Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, Lefty Gomez, and Yogi Berra. The only modern day Yankee discussed in this book is Derek Jeter.  The text also discusses DiMaggio's opinions of both Ted Williams and brother Dom DiMaggio, both members of the rival Red Sox during Joe DiMaggio's playing days.  The book is worth reading just to understand some of what DiMaggio had to say about these baseball legends.  Some of DiMaggio's thoughts and perspectives are, to say the least, surprising.  

Because he was such a popular figure, who also happened to be married to the legendary Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio also had personal connections with all sorts of celebrities from the past sixty years.  The reader is taken to Hollywood gatherings with the rich and famous. One gets to know about Joe DiMaggio's relationship with Frank Sinatra.  The reader is also brought to chance meetings with other celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Woody Allen to name two.  

The author also shares how Joe DiMaggio opened up to him about his relationship with Marilyn Monroe and his first wife Dorothy Arnold, also a Hollywood starlet. In his life, Joe DiMaggio never revealed much of the behind the scenes stories of his relationship with the women in his life, but this book opens the doors to those marriages, at times in intimate detail.

One also gets to catch brief glimpses of Joe DiMaggio's relationships and perspectives on many well known political figures of his day including Presidents John F. Kennedy, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and others such as Henry Kissinger, Rudy Guilaini, and more.

A great deal of the book deals with how DiMaggio had to deal with the fame that followed him everywhere.  Positano's remembrances paint DiMaggio as a icon who worked diligently to create and maintain an image of grace and class.  While doing this, the author reveals much of what made Joe DiMaggio human.  The reader sees the real struggle between DiMaggio's sometimes conflicting desires to be at once both a revered god-like figure and a regular person.  One story in particular, which recounts a visit to a old friend in Brooklyn raveged with cancer is particularly poignant and remarkably touching.  This reviewer feels that was the most powerful reflection in the entire text.

The book is revealing and sincere.  It is clear that Dr. Rock Positano held Joe DiMaggio in the highest regard.  Through this book, he brings Joe DiMaggio to life once again.  Any fan who wants to know more about Joe DiMaggio would enjoy reading this text.  At times this reader felt like a little too much might have been revealed, but it is, all, part of who Joe DiMaggio was.

In the end, it is clear that Joe DiMaggio was revered, cherished, and loved by his special friend Dr. Rock Positano.  

Dinner With DiMaggio will be available from Simon & Schuster beginning May 9, 2017.  It will be available at book stores and on-line retailers everywhere.