What you're looking at here is the first in a series of 100 articles that I'm planning to write in honor of the 100 best Pittsburgh Pirates of all-time. I determined this list based on the"wins above replacement" statistic found at www.baseball-reference.com. I favor this statistic because I believe it lends equal weight to each of the two principals in each plate appearance, for every plate appearance throughout each player's career. I think it allows us to measure up our (relative) contemporaries against historical figures, dating back to before youtube, before tv, and even before radio (for some players). I looked at each of the 1,837 players who ever appeared for the franchise, dating back to 1882.
Vince DiMaggio, born in Martinez, California on September 6, 1912, was the eldest of the three baseball playing DiMaggio brothers, and the first to be "discovered." Before earning his promotion to the major leagues, he played parts of five seasons in the "AA" level Pacific Coast League, with the San Francisco Seals, the Hollywood Stars, and the San Diego Padres.
DiMaggio made his major league debut with the 1937 Boston Bees (Atlanta Braves) of the National League. He played two seasons with the club, hitting .241 with 27 home runs and 130 RBI's in 282 games over the next two seasons. He was traded to the New York Yankees prior to the 1939 season, spending five months with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. The Yankees sent him on to the Cincinnati Reds in August, where Vince finished the season and started the next. He was two-for-21 in 10 games with the club.
On May 8, 1940, DiMaggio was traded to the Pirates for Johnny Rizzo. He would be the Pirates starting center fielder, and appeared in 110 games for Pittsburgh that season, batting mostly seventh. This included a 4-for-4 game with two home runs and three RBI's on August 22, as the New York Giants walked away with a 5-4 victory in 12 innings, in game one of a doubleheader. He hit a career high .289 with 19 home runs and 54 RBI's that season. The Pirates finished two games over .500, fourth in the National League at 78-76.
In 1941, DiMaggio played in 151 games for Pittsburgh, reaching career highs with 21 home runs (sixth in the NL) and 100 RBI's (third in the NL). He started out the season going 6-for-12 with two home runs and seven RBI's through the Pirates first three games. Batting sixth and seventh, he hit .267 for the 81-73, eventual fourth place finishing Pirates.
1942 would see DiMaggio's stats to dip, hitting .238 with 15 home runs and 75 RBI's while leading the NL with 87 strikeouts. The Pirates would see their fortunes tied to DiMaggio, finishing in the second division for the first time since his arrival three seasons prior, with a 66-81 record.
1943 would mark DiMaggio's first invitation to the all-star game, as he hit .248 with 15 home runs and 88 RBI's while leading the NL with 157 games played and a then-league record 126 strikeouts. The team finished fourth with an 80-74 record.
DiMaggio played in 109 games for the 1944 version of the Pirates. He was named to his second consecutive all-star contest while hitting .240 with nine home runs and 50 RBI's. After 1945 spring training, Pittsburgh traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for Al Gerheauser. He later also played for the New York Giants.
DiMaggio finished out his baseball playing career back in the minors with several organizations, first with the PCL Oakland Oaks, then with the California League with the Stockton Ports, in the Far West League with the Pittsburg Diamonds, and with the Western International League Tacoma Tigers.
All-Time Statline: Five seasons, 670 games, .255/.333/.430, 588-for-2302, 294 runs, 136 doubles, 14 triples, 79 home runs, 367 RBIs, 48 stolen bases, 260 walks, 479 strikeouts, 11 wins above replacement.