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|| News Item: Posted 2001-04-30

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
By Tom DiPace

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin
When I was nine years old the N.Y. Mets won the World Series. That was the day I became a baseball fan. I remember riding my banana seat bike around the neighborhood, with each press of the pedal, the thought that my team won the 1969 World Series spun through my mind. It seemed unreal, like a dream. Something magical happened to me that day. Before that day, I was forced to watch the Mets instead of my favorite cartoons however, that day my Dad's team became my team. I fell in love with the Mets. That day I fell in love with baseball.

I began collecting baseball cards. Not just any cards would do, I had to have "The Mets." I will never forget the day in elementary school when I got in trouble for having my cards out after recess. I was in the middle of the biggest trade of my life, Roy White (Yankees) for a Donn Clendenon (Mets). I just had to have that card.

Before I could complete the deal, my teacher confiscated my cards. I was crushed! That afternoon I hung in the back of the lunch line and when the opportunity was right I quickly ran to my teacher's desk. I found my cards and took 'em back. They were in good condition (not gem mint). That didn't matter. The trouble I got in that day was well worth my criminal act. The only thing that mattered to me was that I got my cards back. I still have all those cards.

Man, is it just me, or does the smell of the bubble gum pack bring back sweet memories for you too? My passion for baseball began that day so long ago and has never since died.

Photo by
Can you imagine the joy I had when my work showed up on Topps Trading Cards? I was so excited. It was one of my biggest thrills.

No doubt, I love baseball.

Years later, after working for Topps, I had the pleasure to help Upper Deck onto the card scene, a trend setting opportunity. Baseball photographers changed baseball card history. This was all good. The passion still burned.

Shortly thereafter, greed took over the baseball card industry. The quality of the photos on the cards wasn't important anymore. Just the bottom line. Working for Upper Deck was exciting until the day the head of photography told me, "We could sell cow chips on an Upper Deck card & people will by it." Pretty sad.

My passion for baseball cards started dying. The following years resulted in an over saturated baseball card market. Foil, authentic stamping, pieces of uniforms, etc. All the cards looked the same. I couldn't tell any of them apart. That uniqueness to baseball cards was gone. It became greedy & corporate. My passion flickered!

I love baseball. I love everything about the game, but not the people who run it. What's special anymore? All-star games were so cool with all the different uniforms & colors. Even if your team had one representative, you looked for your team colors around the field of team uniforms. Now, everybody wears a generic American or National jersey. Why? Marketing. Greed.

The World Series used to be special. You would never see the Dodgers play the Yankees during the regular season or any other American or National League team. It made it special! But not any more with inter-league play.

Photo by
"Good for the game," they say. How about selling tickets vs. the integrity of the game. How about all those night World Series games that finish at 1 or 2 a.m. I Guess baseball doesn't really care about the next generation of fans they lose while remotes hit the carpet on living room floors. Baseball is putting America to sleep.

Now I have to deal with people in the front office of baseball that can't do their own job correctly. They do not know how to market this great game.

Baseball has flourished because of the media. Following the Black Sox scandal in 1919 some guy named Babe Ruth entered the baseball drama. He could hit a baseball farther than anyone had ever seen before. If it weren't for the media, nobody would have ever heard of Babe Ruth.

Babe Ruth saved baseball through words and pictures in newspapers all across the country. This free exposure trail blazed the way for baseball to become the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. After the strike of '94 baseball was hanging on by a thread. In a Ruthian way Mark McGwire rekindled the passion of baseball that lies within each one of us. Photographs capture history, bottom line. Baseball is history. This is the baseball I love.

Photo by
Covering the home run chase of '98 gave me a small glimpse of what it may have been like to witness Babe Ruth in all his glory. One could only dream about this. I believe that America holds on to baseball for this reason only. Americans are waiting, dreaming, hoping for this kind of nostalgic glory to return. We know it exists, we have tasted it, but how can it be found again? Can baseball ever be the cherished game it once was? Will greed continue to dilute the great game we call Major League Baseball?

I love the game of baseball. Never before has it been so hard to work up the passion I once had for the game. I now have to question what I have done for the last twelve years. I have to wonder if my photos are somehow illegal because of Major League Baseball.

Logos have become more important than the players. The licensee is more important than integrity and the all mighty dollar is more important than the fans. We are on the brink of another strike that I fear will destroy the game of baseball. Those who "run" this game cannot see the forest from the trees. The league continues to bite the hand that feeds them. Who will be there when the passion dies? Who will be there to bring it back?

P.S. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Unfortunately you passed away last year, and they had you signing autographs even on your deathbed. Greed.

(Tom DiPace ( is a freelance photographer based in Florida. Tom can be reached at:

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