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Monday, March 8, 1999 Published at 17:09 GMT


Baseball legend DiMaggio dies

Joe DiMaggio - an icon of American sport

Brian Barron looks back at Joe DiMaggio's life
Joe DiMaggio, one of the most famous figures in American sporting history, has died at the age of 84.

The ex-New York Yankees baseball star and former husband of Marilyn Monroe had been suffering from lung cancer.

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The news was announced by DiMaggio's lawyer and friend for 59 years, Morris Engelberg, who had joined family and friends at the sporting legend's bedside at his home in Florida.

"DiMaggio, the consummate gentleman on and off the field, fought his illness as hard as he played the game of baseball and with the same dignity, style and grace with which he lived his life," Engelberg said.

He underwent surgery for lung cancer last October but suffered further complications and struggled to recover.

DiMaggio was released from Florida's Memorial Regional Hospital last month after a 99-day stay that had been remarkable for the extent of press and TV coverage of his condition.

He will be buried in San Francisco.

The Yankee Clipper

Known as the "Yankee Clipper", DiMaggio was thought of by many as one of the greatest players ever to have swung a bat.

BBC Correspondent Nick Bryan: An icon of post-war American culture
And he sealed his position as a 1950s icon when he married Monroe, the most potent sex symbol of the era. They went onto become America's number one celebrity couple.

Name-checked in the works of leading 20th century cultural figures like Ernest Hemingway and Paul Simon, DiMaggio transcended his status as a ballplayer and occupied a unique place in American life.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Todd Ant explains that DiMaggio was not just your regular Joe
He established a batting record by scoring hits in 56 consecutive games during his glorious season of 1941. Even today, this feat has not been repeated.

The world of baseball paid tribute to one of the sport's most potent performers.

Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner said: "Like his many fans across America, and indeed, around the world, the Yankees are deeply saddened by the passing of Joe DiMaggio, one of our own and one of the greatest of all time.

"It was the class and dignity with which he led his life that made him part of all of us."

"All of baseball is deeply saddened", baseball commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig said in a statement calling the athlete "the personification of grace, class and dignity on the baseball diamond."

Malcolm Brabant: "He established a place in America's affections"
"His persona extended beyond the playing field and touched all our hearts," Selig said, adding "In many respects, as an immigrant's son, he represented the hopes and ideals of our great country".

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