During the 1880s-19920s, around 4 million Italians immigrated to America seeking a better life and opportunity.
Upon arrival, times were tougher than they hoped. They were forced to take odd jobs that no one wanted. These jobs involved hard labor work and often in dangerous conditions.
There was also extreme prejudice towards Italians. Americans did not want them to be there. They were viewed as unwanted foreigners and criminals.
Joe DiMaggio was born a 1st generation Italian to Southern Italian immigrants, Giuseppe and Rosalia. He was 1 of 9 children. His father worked as a fisherman and they grew up broke, barley knowing English.
Joe’s father was very strict, it was expected that he was to carry in his footsteps and become a fisherman as well. This was not the path Joe wanted to take in life.
Luckily, his brother Vince was signed to a Minor League Baseball team and pushed Joe to play baseball with him.
Joe DiMaggio played Major League Baseball in the 1930s-1950s. He had a very successful career. He won 9 World Series Championships, was a 13 time All-Star (he played 13 years), and most importantly, he had the largest hitting streak in MLB history. This hit streak was for 56-games and still lasts as the longest consecutive hit streak today.
Americans all around the world were tuning in to watch Joltin’ Joe. They were were rooting on his hit-streak, watching the All-Star games, or watching the World Series.
He reached celebrity status and everybody knew who he was.
Joe’s amazing success in baseball helped paved the way for Italians to become accepted in America. People viewed an Italian-American as their idol and as class-acts. He showed a good example of what Italians are able to accomplish.
Italian-Americans also started to receive some hope. It showed that there is opportunity to make it in America and that the tide was changing on all of the hardship.
- Joe DiMaggio: How The Son of an Italian Fisherman… [La Gazzetta Italiana]
- What Joe DiMaggio meant for Italian Americans [Bronx Pinstripes]
- How DiMaggio Turned the Tide, and Brought… [ISDA]