SCOTT SIMON, host:
The No. 5 has been retired from the New York Yankees since 1952 just a year after Joe DiMaggio left the game. Next week Mr. DiMaggio's personal collection of No. 5 jerseys will return to public view along with his nine World Series rings, his tie clips, some of his love letters, even his shower shoes. Items from Joe DiMaggio's life closet and jewelry case will all be auctioned at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. David Hunt is President of Hunt Auctions, which is conducting the sale. He's on the phone from Exton, Pennsylvania. Mr. Hunt, thanks very much for being with us.
Mr. DAVID HUNT (Hunt Auctions, President): Thank you for having me.
SIMON: People gave him stuff all the time...
Mr. HUNT: Yes.
SIMON: ...didn't they?
Mr. HUNT: I have never seen a collection nor known of one, and I'm fairly certain there is not one that exists, that has this kind of quality and quantity. But if you put it into perspective, he was arguably the most popular individual in the United States in the 1940s.
SIMON: But I've just cracked open this catalog...
Mr. HUNT: Mmm-hmm.
SIMON: ...which is remarkable and for those of us who love baseball and Joe DiMaggio. It's a variable Whitman Sampler. But his U.S. military duffel...
Mr. HUNT: Yes, when Joe entered the Army, that was, you know, a very significant thing at that time period. He was at the absolute pinnacle of his career and as has been many times stated over the years, his statistics would've just been phenomenal, as they were already, but if he had not lost those years to the war. But he played baseball, basically in the USO, kind of a serving over in Hawaii in the Pacific.
But what was very interesting to me is the U.S. command did not want to send him to the front lines because they were so fearful if he were killed in action, that it would completely demoralize the entire United States military.
SIMON: And it must be said what a kick in the teeth to Red Sox fans that Ted Williams spent five years as a fighter pilot. Apparently they weren't worry that...
Mr. HUNT: Absolutely. It's interesting. I mean, you see the correspondence between Presidents and Joe and the way that they wrote to him. The way that they wrote to him like they were a little kid almost, honored that he would even reply to them.
SIMON: I have to ask the Marilyn question.
Mr. HUNT: Mm-hmm.
SIMON: Mr. DiMaggio didn't like a lot of attention...
Mr. HUNT: Yes.
SIMON: ...being paid to that. You have some Marilyn Monroe items...
Mr. HUNT: Yes, we do.
SIMON: ...and that's obviously with the assent of his granddaughters.
Mr. HUNT: Yep.
SIMON: Well, what do you infer for the, forgive me if this sounds cheap, but clearly the torch he continued to keep?
Mr. HUNT: I think, you know what, that was clearly the most sensitive issue of this entire auction. There's no question about it. I can safely say that. And what I found fascinating and what ultimately made this decision for the family and us to offer these things is they were immensely positive. I think they showed a side of Joe that nobody had ever seen, literally, not even his family. And what I think was most positive was that it absolutely, definitively, without a question proved that they had an actual, real, loving relationship for their entire life.
SIMON: Mr. Hunt, you know, part of the allure and the fascination of Joe DiMaggio for millions of Americans was the fact that he carried himself with enormous dignity, and part of that was he was private man, and I think some people just might wonder how comfortable would Joe DiMaggio be with, you know, goodness gracious, his tie clips and cuff links and shower sandals, for goodness sakes being put up for auction.
Mr. HUNT: I think it's a fair question. All I can say to that would be this, that Joe gave a lot of these things to the girls over the years and he left the rest of them after he passed away, and I certainly don't see anything incredulously negative about it being sold and a portion of those proceeds going to charity and maybe a portion of the proceeds going to the granddaughters' children's college fund, who Joe was very close to towards the end of his life. I think in the context of what we're discussing, I just don't think there's anything negative about it.
SIMON: David Hunt of Hunt Auctions, thanks very much.
Mr. HUNT: Thank you.
SIMON: And you can get a look at many of the items that are up for auction, find out how you can put in a bid on our Web site, NPR.org.
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