By Ben Terris, Town Correspondent
Friends and family of Red Sox great Dom DiMaggio gathered in Wellesley Monday morning for a funeral Mass at St. Paul Church, with baseball figures and local residents recalling his ties to the region.
Peter Feeherry of Wellesley did not know DiMaggio, but has long had great respect for him.
“He was always a star in my mind. I grew up in Boston and always looked up to him. He may have been overshadowed by his brother, but he was never outshined,” Feeherry recalled after Monday's Mass.
DiMaggio's wife is from Wellesley, and stories about his family and their links to Wellesley and the area circulated after DiMaggio died last week at the age of 92.
“The last time I saw Dom was in Florida just a little while ago,'' said Bob Martin, friends with DiMaggio through their wives. "He was always so witty and so quick, and when I asked him how he was doing he said with a smile, ‘I’m feeling great from the neck up.’ He was such a great, modest, unassuming and dry guy, I thought that moment really summed him up.”
In his obituary of DiMaggio, the Globe's Mark Feeney wrote that Emily Colette DiMaggio of Wayland said her father "was such a great teacher of how to live a life and to love and pass it on."
She recalled that growing up in Wellesley, neighborhood children flocked to the DiMaggio house because there was always extra equipment for games. One day when the children couldn't find a ball, she said, they went into Mr. DiMaggio's study and borrowed one covered with signatures, a pennant ball, perhaps.
Upon arriving home in the evening, Mr. DiMaggio spied the ball, now sporting grass stains and smudged names, and asked, "What is this?"
"We told him we used it for the neighborhood ballgame with the kids," his daughter said. "We were waiting for the reaction, and he said, 'So, did you win?' That's who he was, an incredible dad."
The Swellesley Report offered another recollection, mentioning a Wellesley snippet in David Halberstam's book "The Teammates.''
"Turns out that DiMaggio, the slick fielding and good hitting centerfielder, married a Wellesley gal named Emily Frederick. DiMaggio is described as being shy around women and it took a bit for this courtship to bloom. He wound up paying her a visit with an autographed team ball. Halberstam writes: "He and a friend subsequently drove out to Wellesley. Emily turned out to be even prettier and more vivacious than he remembered. He (DiMaggio) recalled thinking,"She's not going to get away from me."
DiMaggio died Friday morning with the Red Sox game in the background after a bout with pneumonia. He was 92.
The center fielder was the younger brother of Yankees Hall of Famer Joe, and played in the same outfield with another major league great, Ted Williams. Yet he carved out an outstanding 10-year career of his own.
The "Little Professor" as he was known because of his eyeglasses and slight frame, as well as his smarts, was a lifetime .298 hitter and a seven-time All Star.
He helped lead the Red Sox to the 1946 World Series, where they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In addition to his wife, son, and daughter, Mr. DiMaggio leaves another son, Peter Joseph of Westford, and six grandchildren.
Jack Howard, whose father was a semi-pro ball player from Everett, had this to say after the service Monday:
“Dom was really of a great generation, a time when he could be a great ballplayer and a great guy. My father told me that once Dom and the rest of the Red Sox game down to Everett to play a charity game against my father’s team. This was in the middle of the season, and the team was willing to make a trip and play a game just to support a charitable cause. I’m here today to support a great man from a great generation of ballplayers.”
-- Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.