Inside the baseball world, the 1954 marriage between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, which took place in San Francisco 62 years ago today, was a curious but understandable pairing of New York Yankees hero and Hollywood starlet.DiMaggio had already been married to one film actress, Dorothy Arnold, from 1939-44. So
Inside the baseball world, the 1954 marriage between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, which took place in San Francisco 62 years ago today, was a curious but understandable pairing of New York Yankees hero and Hollywood starlet.
DiMaggio had already been married to one film actress, Dorothy Arnold, from 1939-44. So to the hardball fanatic, this was simply a case of two more charismatic famous people having found each other and giving wedded bliss a try.
But then there was the bigger world outside the sport. There, this would grow into legend: a marquee match of American icons, a historic partnership that represented some sort of romantic perfection. On the dark side was the much-publicized jealous and unacceptable rage DiMaggio had exhibited in the relationship.
"Baseball fans, as always, are focused on the infield fly rule," said longtime Newark Star-Ledger sports columnist Jerry Izenberg, who covered DiMaggio during his playing days and after. "To them, this was no big deal, just Joe marrying another movie star."
Ultimately, the story of this ill-fated union was about how real life is far different from any ideal Shangri-La. But while the DiMaggio-Monroe marriage might have fizzled out after nine months, the passion between the two never quite disappeared, which makes the story of their love intriguing even now.
DiMaggio sought out Monroe in 1952, asking a friend who knew the burgeoning movie star to see if she would accompany him to dinner. This innocent meeting quickly became a press sideshow, so DiMaggio and Monroe took their relationship into the private realm.
That's why it shook the world of celebrity a bit when the two showed up at City Hall in San Francisco on Jan. 14, 1954, to tie the knot. Of course, that didn't prevent them from being mobbed by the media there.
"Joltin' Joe DiMaggio wedded the girl of his and many other men's dreams yesterday afternoon in the San Francisco City Hall," read the newspaper story the next day in the San Francisco Chronicle, written by Art Hoppe.
"Marilyn Monroe, who packs no mean jolt herself, said she was very happy. DiMaggio said he was also very happy. Also happy was the battery of columnists which has spent no little time in the past two years running down rumors that the two were already secretly married, were to be married, or were not speaking to each other."
The report said that the location and time of the ceremony had been kept secret and "only about 500 people managed to hear about it in time to turn the corridors outside Municipal Judge Charles S. Perry's court into a madhouse."
"Marilyn, it seems, had made the mistake of calling her studio in Hollywood [the day before the wedding] and letting it in on her plans to be married at 1 p.m. A studio official casually mentioned it as fast as he could to all the major news services."
With that cat out of the bag, the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. were forced to host an impromptu press conference led by the hard-hitting question, "Are you excited, Marilyn?"
Monroe, the Chronicle wrote, giggled and said, "Oh, you KNOW it's more than that."
After an incorrect guarantee by DiMaggio that the couple would have "at least one" child, the pair put on a display of public affection for the assembled media.
"By the time they finished kissing each other exhaustively for the photographers' benefit, Marilyn's blonde hair was in disarray, and most of her lipstick had been transferred to the ballplayer's face," Hoppe wrote.
The two were officially married at 1:48 p.m. and had to dodge crowds through the corridors of the building and down to the basement. The spectacle of it soon began to bristle DiMaggio.
The Chronicle summed up the confrontation like this: "'This is a fine thing -- dodging your loyal fans like this, Joe,' said a member of the crowd who had wormed his way into the elevator. DiMaggio took umbrage and shouted: 'Don't tell me what to do!'"
Soon enough, the wedding day -- and the marriage -- were over. The relationship between DiMaggio and Monroe had always been a turbulent one that began to reveal fissures early on.
Izenberg had served in the Korean War, and he was in Japan when DiMaggio and Monroe arrived in Tokyo for their honeymoon.
"There was an incredible mob at the airport in Tokyo, and they all wanted to see Marilyn Monroe," Izenberg said. "There was a lot of pushing and shoving, and before their little press conference even started, Marilyn turned to Joe and said, 'Do you hear that? All those people calling my name?'
"And he had already had enough of it. His attitude was along the lines of, 'This might be new to you, kid, but this is not new to me.' You could already tell there were going to be problems."
The marriage lasted a total of 274 days and ended with a divorce in October 1954. Monroe would later marry and divorce playwright Arthur Miller, and she died of a drug overdose in 1962 at the age of 36.
And while their marriage might have flamed out, the embers of DiMaggio's love for Monroe continued to burn.
The two reportedly remained confidants, and DiMaggio famously sent roses to her Los Angeles grave several times a week for more than 20 years until his death in 1999.
Her memory stayed with him until the end, too, according to his lawyer, Morris Engelberg, who was by DiMaggio's bedside when he passed away at the age of 84.
Engelberg told Vanity Fair that DiMaggio's last words were: "I'll finally get to see Marilyn."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.