Sunday, December 30, 2007

92 years young...Joe DiGangi

circled...lower right corner

Joe DiGangi was ready for his close-up. On the glass-top coffee table in his Coronado condo sat neat piles of clippings and annotated photographs. DiGangi had told his baseball stories so many times that his narration was as lean as a Hemingway novel.

Because DiGangi had spent nine seasons catching batting practice for the New York Yankees, his 92-year-old fingers were a little harder to follow.

“Lou Gehrig always had a hitch (in his swing), and he tipped one,” DiGangi said, holding up his gnarled hand as Exhibit A. “If you look at the damn glove I (had), it was rawhide in those days. You couldn't catch with one hand because the ball would pop out.

“You see the guys now catching with one hand. If I had that, I would have made the Hall of Fame.”

DiGangi told of acting as a bullpen lookout when Babe Ruth wanted a drink between innings, of throwing batting practice to Joe DiMaggio the year of his 56-game hitting streak, of warming up a pitcher while Gehrig was calling himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

He could not have been more gracious or more helpful.

Among the blessings of old age is the opportunity to recount history through your personal prism, to “remember with advantages,” as Shakespeare put it. Among the treats of the journalism trade is the opportunity to hear history as told by the participants.