I had visited the tiny country of Belize — bordered by Guatemala, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea — several times. It is certainly a fisherman’s paradise; I knew that Joe was an avid fisherman and it was the way his father as well as his two oldest brothers made their living.
“The country of Belize has roughly 386 km of coastline, and has many coral reefs, cayes, and islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most of these, form the Belize Barrier Reef, the longest in the western hemisphere stemming approximately 322 km (200 miles). The reef and its islands have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.” (The largest barrier reef in the world is along the north coast of Australia.)
There are several hundred varieties of fish in these waters, and it’s a favorite fishing area for people the world over – a world-class fishing destination! Waiting to board the plane in Miami it was clear by the gear they brought if they were going to fish.
One person caught my eye and immediately I was convinced it was Joe DiMaggio – that profile, the larger-than-life nose! And for some reason I knew he was a fishing enthusiast.
Why — beyond the profile and the fishing gear — was I so acquainted with this person? There are several possible reasons. It could be his baseball prowess, after all as a child during part of his years with the Yankees I lived with my family in Yonkers at the edge of New York City. He also held the longest hitting streak in professional baseball (56 games)!
It could be because he married Marilyn Monroe and that short marriage was pasted on all the news media. Or it could be that he became the face of Mr. Coffee for 20 years and he seemed to appear daily in TV ads for the electric drip coffee maker.
Whatever it was, as I waited for the airplane with several others, the topic of who this guy is came up and there were several comments. One English women said she had a glance at his passport and it clearly was not a DiMaggio. Another person said that DiMaggio had been raised in an adjacent neighborhood and this guy was simply too young to be the Joe DiMaggio.
Still, we needed more information to settle our curiosity.
For some reason or another I seemed to feel that someone needed to confront him and settle the question for us. I’m not certain why I took it upon myself, but I did. Though a bit cloudy in my memory, I guess I felt it was my responsibility to man-up and ask this spitting-image or the real person the big question.
I thought I had the appropriate approach and was certain of my inclination – so I walked up to him and meekly asked, “Are you who I think you are?” (Very tactful and appropriate, I thought.)
The answer was quick and to the point: “No, I am not Ted Williams.”
That was it!
For those of you who are unacquainted with him, “Williams was a 19-time All-Star, a two-time recipient of the American League Most Valuable Player Award, a six-time AL batting champion, and a two-time Triple Crown winner. He finished his playing career with a .344 batting average, 521 home runs, and a .482 on-base percentage, the highest of all time.”
Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus of Wilmington College.