"Think of the great DiMaggio."
Joe DiMaggio, 1937
Public DomainJoe DiMaggio, 1937

Here Santiago and Manolin discuss their hero, New York Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio, and Santiago thinks of him more than once while he is out fishing. Clearly both have a strong interest in professional American major league baseball.

Joe DiMaggio began playing for the New York Yankees in 1936. He never played for any other professional team. By the early 1950s, when The Old Man and the Sea was written, he was a living legend among baseball fans. With him on the team the Yankees won the World Series in 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950, and 1951. He retired from baseball after the 1951 season because he was "full of aches and pains."

According to joedimaggio.com, “DiMaggio was a beautiful hitter with a classic swing. He had an exceptionally wide stance that gave him a controlled short stride, strong wrists that generated enormous power, and the ability to wait until the last instant before lashing into a pitch.” He was also an outstanding fielder and base runner. No wonder the old man always refers to him reverently as "the great DiMaggio."

 

Joe DiMaggio shakes hands with President Ronald Reagan, 1981
Public DomainJoe DiMaggio shakes hands with President Ronald Reagan, 1981

According to Wikipedia, DiMaggio remarked on his retirement in December 1951: "I was full of aches and pains and it had become a chore for me to play. When baseball is no longer fun, it's no longer a game, and so, I've played my last game." Born in 1914, DiMaggio died of complications related to lung cancer on March 8, 1999.