BOSTON — Dominic DiMaggio, the bespectacled Boston Red Sox center fielder who made his own mark on the major leagues despite playing in the shadow of Hall of Fame brother Joe and teammate Ted Williams, died early Friday at his Massachusetts home. He was 92.
DiMaggio died at about 1 a.m. with the Red Sox television replay of Thursday night's game on in the background, said his son, Dominic Paul.
"He was in and out of consciousness, but he was acknowledging it. He was a Red Sox fan until the end," his son said.
DiMaggio was surrounded by his family, according to his wife, Emily. He had been battling pneumonia, the Red Sox said in a statement.
"He was the most wonderful, warm, loving man," his wife of 61 years said. "He adored his children, and we all adored him."
DiMaggio was a seven-time All Star who still holds the record for the longest consecutive game hitting streak in Boston Red Sox history. Known as the "Little Professor" because of his eyeglasses and 5-foot-9, 168-pound frame, DiMaggio hit safely in 34 consecutive games in 1949.
The streak was broken on Aug. 9 when his big brother caught a sinking liner in the eighth inning of a 6-3 Red Sox win over the Yankees. Joe set the major league record with a 56-game hitting streak with the Yankees in 1941.
The Red Sox will pay tribute to DiMaggio with a moment of silence before Friday night's home game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The nickname was about more than just appearance, his son said. Dom DiMaggio was a mathematics whiz who was offered a scholarship to Santa Clara College. He parlayed his numbers skills into a successful post-baseball business career and loved to play the stock market.
"That was his passion," his son said. "He'd watch the stock ticker all day and the Red Sox all night."
The oldest of the three center field-playing DiMaggio brothers was Vince, who had a 10-year major league career with five National League teams. Vince died in October 1986, and Joe died in March 1999.
"Dad had a great deal of respect for Uncle Joe and what he did," his son said. "But he never felt inferior. He was a competitor and a strong competitor."
Dom DiMaggio spent his entire career with the Red Sox, 10 full seasons plus three games in 1953, and was close friends with teammates Williams, Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky.
"He was a great player, and most of all, a great friend," Pesky said. "I will miss him terribly." Doerr called him a "class guy and a great teammate."
"His loss saddens us all, but his contributions to the glory and tradition of our ballclub will forever be etched in the annals of Red Sox history," principal owner John Henry said in a statement.
DiMaggio retired because he'd been relegated to the bench and didn't want to be a part-time player, said his son, who was just 3 years old at the time.
"I remember walking out to center field with him on the day he retired. For some reason what I remember most is thinking how big the green and red ball and strike lights were on the scoreboard. But I think that was just his way of saying goodbye to Fenway."
While Dom did not have the offensive numbers of Joe, he was generally regarded as a better defensive player with a stronger arm. The younger DiMaggio led the American League in assists three times, putouts twice and double plays twice.
He was a career .298 hitter with 87 home runs, while Joe was a .325 career hitter with 361 homers. Dom's baseball career was interrupted for three years (1943-45) by World War II when he served in the Navy, a military obligation that might have cost him induction into the Hall of Fame, Doerr once said.
DiMaggio and Pesky "were really penalized for that, and I think it was kind of a shame in a way because when you look, they have the numbers," Doerr said in August 2007 during an appearance at Fenway Park.
Dom played a pivotal role in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, a heartbreaker for Boston fans. He batted in two runs in the eighth inning to tie the game at 3, but injured his leg while running the bases and was replaced in center field by Leon Culberson for the ninth.
It was Culberson who fielded Harry Walker's double and threw it to Pesky during Enos Slaughter's famous "Mad Dash" from first to home that won the series for the Cardinals.
Many argued that if DiMaggio had been in center he would have handled the play better and prevented Slaughter from scoring.
"Watching the play had been pure agony for Dominic DiMaggio...," David Halberstam wrote in his 2003 book, "The Teammates." ''His own injury, his own pulled hamstring, Dominic now decided, had been the decisive play of the game."
After the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, their first since 1918, DiMaggio, Pesky and Doerr were on hand on opening day 2005 to raise the championship banner at Fenway Park.
After his playing career, he started a successful company that manufactured upholstery and carpeting for automobiles, which he ran until his retirement in 1983. He remained active in many charitable and civic causes, supporting medical and education institutions, and serving on the board of trustees at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. A scholarship for a baseball or softball player at the school is named for him.
He cared deeply for the players of his era who did not receive pensions. For years he donated all the money he made from signing autographs to the American Professional Baseball Players Association, an organization that helped support older players not covered by a retirement plan.
He was also a founding partner of the Boston Patriots, now the NFL's New England Patriots.
DiMaggio grew up in San Francisco, one of nine children born to Sicilian immigrants. His mother was a teacher and his father was a fisherman. He is survived by his wife and three children, Dominic Paul, Peter and Emily.
The Rev. Jonathan DeFelice, president of Saint Anselm, has been asked to perform the funeral Mass for DiMaggio on Monday at St. Paul's Church in Wellesley.