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  •   N.Y. Fans Remember DiMaggio Fondly

     Groundskeepers at Legends Field in Tampa lower the U.S. flag to half-staff in honor of Joe DiMaggio's death. (AP)
    By Beth J. Harpaz
    Associated Press
    Monday, March 8, 1999; 10:32 a.m. EST

    NEW YORK – Pausing as they walked through Grand Central Terminal today, fans of Joe DiMaggio remembered him not just as one of baseball's greatest, but as a symbol of a more innocent time in sports.

    "He was what baseball was all about before we got to that high-priced stuff,'' said George Ladino, a former Bostonian who now lives in London and makes his living from mutual funds.

    "He's one of the greatest players of all time,'' said Doug Connor of Irvington, who works in the financial industry. "It's the passing of a person from a time when baseball was the way it should be, when there was a higher ethical and moral standard.''

    "When you think of Joe DiMaggio, you think about the time before baseball was just how much money they were making,'' said Bob Sachs of Rowayton, Conn., who is in the textile business. "All he had to do was walk out and say a few words. It represented a time when there was less trading and players would stay with teams a long time.''

    Howard Fine, a plastics manufacturer from Mamaroneck, called DiMaggio "a classy individual. He carried himself well in and out of the sports world. When he finished playing, he had a very special aura. He had a lot of dignity about him besides being an excellent ballplayer. I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, but I saw him play in Yankee Stadium, and you have to admire the way he played.''

    Among the tributes this morning was a new life-size statue of DiMaggio, complete with wooden bat, that went on display at "Mickey Mantle's'' restaurant in Manhattan.

    Author Joe Dorinson, who wrote "Jackie Robinson: Races, Sports and the American Dream,'' said in a statement that DiMaggio "truly epitomized the `Hemingway Hero.' He confronted adversity with grace under pressure.''

    He added: "In an era when Mussolini was the dominant political image, Joe DiMaggio offered the positive counter image in terms of Italian heritage. He lifted Italian-Americans to mainstream status. Indeed, the reason why so many Italian-Americans from Brooklyn, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, became Yankee fans was because of Joe DiMaggio.''

    Former Mayor Ed Koch said that although he was never much of a baseball fan, DiMaggio was a man worthy of admiration.

    "He represented the best in America,'' Koch said. "It was his character, his generosity, his sensitivity. He was someone who set a standard every father would want his children to follow.''

    © Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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