“Joltin Joe” DiMaggio played his entire 13 year professional baseball career for the New York Yankees. He is probably best known for his 56-game hitting streak, a record that still stands.
Beloved by Yankees fans, he was honored with “Joe DiMaggio Day” on Oct. 1, 1949. Part of the honors included bestowing DiMaggio with the “Joltin’ Joe,” a 22-foot Chris-Craft Sportsman, in a Yankee Stadium ceremony. Fans wanted to pay tribute to his monster season (one of many) the year before, when he hit 39 homers and posted a .320 batting average. The boat’s mythical status was secured when Joe took his new bride, Marilyn Monroe, for a spin around San Francisco Bay on their wedding day in 1954.
DiMaggio loaned the boat to numerous relatives over the years, and the boat had fallen into a state of general disrepair by the time it was donated to the City of Martinez, Calif., DiMaggio's hometown, by DiMaggio himself in 1991.
Immediately after World War II, new supplies of mahogany had not yet made it to the United States. That didn't stop Chris-Craft from getting the production lines rolling! Early post-war boats were often built with cedar topsides, which were painted white, as cedar doesn't accept stain evenly. Cedar, Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce were also used for interior ceiling boards, trim, and flag poles, stained blond and varnished. These features can be seen in the “Joltin’ Joe”, which is likely a 1948 model. An original Chrysler six-cylinder engine was also located and fitted to the boat.
Sadly, after being donated, the boat deteriorated even further after spending many years on display at the Martinez city marina when the Sons of Italy in America, Diablo Valley Lodge #2167, took the initiative, raised $70,000, and took on this significant restoration project. Local Carpenters’ Union 152 followed suit and offered to contribute free labor to support the effort. Dave Scola, the City of Martinez Public Works Director and champion of the restoration effort, located an expert in restoring Chris-Craft boats to supervise the work in order to ensure that the end result remained true to the boat’s origins.
This is certainly a boat that deserved to be restored, and it's especially appropriate that the community in which DiMaggio grew up rallied together to make it happen. Further, it was gratifying to see what care they took to do the job properly, so the boat well deserves to be shown at an International Show!
For more information on the boat, visit: http://www.cityofmartinez.org/our_city/events/joltin_joe_restoration_project.asp
Editor’s note: The author, David Bortner, is “captain” at Freedom Boat Service.