(Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
Dom DiMaggio's wife, Emily (top with hat), emerges behind the casket of her husband today after the funeral in Wellesley.
By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff
WELLESLEY -- As a soaring hymn filled the small church, Red Sox great Johnny Pesky gently sobbed, wiping away tears of grief over his former teammate and friend of many years, Dominic DiMaggio.
Some 200 mourners gathered at St. Paul's Church this morning for Mr. DiMaggio's funeral, where the great outfielder was remembered as "an even better man" who put his baseball career on hold to serve his country, and who loved friends and family deeply.
"He was not just a fine ballplayer, but a fine man," his son, Paul DiMaggio, said in a poignant eulogy. "A great player, but a better person. Those were his values, and his virtues."
Quoting the late author David Halberstam in his 2003 book "The Teammates," DiMaggio recalled his father as "graceful, elegant, and wise."
A seven-time All-Star who spent his entire career with the Red Sox, Mr. DiMaggio died Friday at his Marion home after a bout with pneumonia. He was 92.
Fondly known as the "Little Professor" for his slight frame and spectacles, he was the younger brother of Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio and long-time teammate of Red Sox legends Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr. When he died, the Red Sox were on the television in the background, his family said.
Wearing a banded straw hat, DiMaggio's widow, Emily, sat in the first row of the wood-beamed chapel, near the closed, cloth-covered casket. In his homily, the Rev. Jonathan DeFelice called the DiMaggios' marriage a "remarkable and rare love story" that produced a large, loving family.
"His eyes twinkled when he spoke of his family," said DeFelice, the president of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., where Mr. DiMaggio was a trustee for three decades. "What a wonderful legacy he has left."
Mr. DiMaggio, who raised his family in Wellesley, played baseball with a fierce intelligence, determination, and genuine love of the game that is "so rarely seen today," DeFelice said.
The son of Italian immigrants, Mr. DiMaggio missed three full baseball seasons to enlist in the military during World War II. After his playing career, he became a successful businessman.
"His story is an American dream come true," DeFelice said. "He was a gentleman, in the best sense of the word."
Paul DiMaggio said his father was a "hard-nosed businessman from the old school" whose lived his life with integrity and loyalty.
Living up to his example would be a "worthy goal," he said, holding back tears, and a fitting tribute.
Reading from a letter Mr. DiMaggio's grandson had written Friday, Paul DiMaggio noted how his father signed autographs in a classically elegant script. The proceeds from his autograph sales went to support retired players who did not earn a pension, he said.
In the letter, Mr. DiMaggio's grandson said he wished he could spend another morning with DiMaggio overlooking the harbor in their breakfast nook, watching him dunk his toast in his coffee. He wished he could ask him again "What's up, Gramps? What's the score?"
In his eulogy, Mr. DiMaggio's youngest son, Peter, bade farewell to the "Little Professor."
"Farewell to the wise man. Farewell to the loving husband. Farewell, Dad," he said.
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