Joe Dimaggio died this week. For our generation, and certainly the one right after, it was no startling event. Just another old guy passing away. Joe Dimaggio? We never saw him play.
It is a testament to the values we place on accomplishments today that Dimaggio is remembered by the 25-54 year olds more as the husband of Marilyn Monroe rather than as one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived. In the 90’s era of “flash over substance,” it’s often all about who you’re with rather than who are.
Drop down to the 18-54 year old demo and Joltin’ Joe is known more from the line of Paul Simon’s song, “Mrs. Robinson,” than from his RBIs or the kisses he stole. “Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?” became more than a rhetorical question for the losing Yanks. It was the cry of broken hearts and dashed hopes of middle aged, middle America.
In my wild life and times, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of the rich and famous. One such icon was Joe Dimaggio. I had the honor of sharing a drink with him in a San Francisco bar 15 years ago. I never saw him play. I’m not a big Marilyn Monroe fan and I always thought “Mrs. Robinson” was overrated. But I can describe Joe Dimaggio in one word that transcends all generations. No matter when you were born, Joe was cool.
When he returned from the bathroom, I sang, “Where did you go Joe Dimaggio?” He smiled and pretended to think it was funny. Joe was cool.
But being cool isn’t what this editorial is about. It’s about being like Joe Dimaggio. He was one of the greatest baseball players that ever lived. I’m always interested in what makes one person greater than his peers. What was it that made Joe Dimaggio special way beyond the others who played with him?
The easy answer is talent. Dimaggio could hit, run and throw better than most. But when asked what Dimaggio special, old timers say things like, “He never threw to the wrong base.” “Joe made it look easy.” “He played hard everyday.”
Joe Dimaggio was epitomized most recently by Michael Jordan. Dimaggio’s Yankees won nine titles in the 13 seasons he played with them. Jordan’s ability to lead his teammates was just as exemplary. Although, extremely gifted, both men had the unique ability of making those who played with them better.
They came to play. Would anyone begrudge Dimaggio or Jordan coasting their way through a game or two? No chance. Both played sick and injured. Dimaggio lost the opportunity to bat .400 one year because he played the last two weeks with an eye infection that caused his vision to blur. He would not sit down because his teammates needed his presence in the lineup to play to their potential.
When asked why he played so hard every day, Dimaggio replied, “Because someone might be seeing me play for the first time.”
Would that we all had the same drive. In studying the lives of successful people, I’ve found it’s often the simple things that make the difference. The big things are often easy. It’s those little ones, done consistently, that are consistent with successful people.
A goal so simple caused Dimaggio to rise above his peers. It’s a goal we should all strive for. Too often, we’re at our best only when we think it matters.We work a little harder when we have a special opportunity to impress the boss. Or we work harder when we’re challenged. Or when we’re threatened.
Why can’t we motivate ourselves on a daily basis? We should all strive to do our best each day because we expect it. And who knows if someone is watching for the first time.
When I first began at Network 40, a friend secretly sent one of my editorials to a very prestigious magazine and suggested they use me as their music contributor. The publisher was impressed. He made arrangements to read my next two efforts. I was lazy and happened to write two mediocre pieces. The publisher passed. When I found out what happened, I contacted the publisher and sent some of my best writings. He was impressed with the work, but didn’t hire me. I guess he figured if I didn’t consistently do my best for one company, how could I be expected to do the same for another?
Has the same happened to you? Maybe it did and you didn’t know it. Maybe you did a bad air shift when an important PD was listening. Maybe you had a bad week when a Sr. VP from another company was watching. Maybe you did a poor job because you figured nobody would know.
I made a pledge and I challenge you to do the same. Act each day like someone is seeing you for the first time. What opinion will they draw?
Like Joe Dimaggio, Paul Simon might write a song about you. Or Snoop Dogg.
Depends on who’s listening.