As I headed down Tulane Avenue on a straight-ahead mission – and not for a fools-errand U-turn – I fumbled through my cell phone rolodex.
“Aadad.” Hackers could never crack my code.
“Dad, I’ve got something important I’ve been thinking about. Are you sitting down?”
He had already told me he, too, was driving. I was heading straight ahead for dramatic effect.
“What do you remember about Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak? Did Poppa write much about it?”
Joe DiMaggio hit safely on base in 56 consecutive games in 1941, during the summer before Pearl Harbor. My dad was born after the Korean War. Again, dramatic effect.
“Well, there’s the story about the time DiMaggio visited New Orleans.” I knew that one. I might have transcribed into the book that one. Amazon.com might offer for a deeply discounted $10.23 that one (and dozens more from local and national sports lore!).
In 1959, at the age of 45, the Yankee great found himself at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium. On a clear night, Jen and I can hear the tinging of the Delgado bats from Kirsch-Rooney. On that day, it would have been more of a thunderclap. Here’s my grandfather’s lede:
Reluctantly, he removed the double-breasted coat of his dark blue suit. He kept the cuff links on his white shirt fastened, but moved the French cuffs up, away from his wrists. He did not loosen his dark blue tie.
Joe DiMaggio took a very formal BP session in Navarre with Pelicans minor league pitcher Jim Kite.
On the first pitch, Joe sent a dribbler back to the mound. On the second, he hit a soft roller to short. His audience grew respectably quiet. Whereupon, Joe motioned to Kite: “One more, if you please.”
Kite grooved one and Joltin’ Joe swung from the heels of his black patent-leather shoes. He sent a shot over the fence in left field — 337 feet away — and, one more time, Joe DiMaggio, eight years into retirement, was greeted by a sound that seemed to follow him forever: The roar of the crowd.
“Why do you want to know about DiMaggio’s hit streak?”
In times of need, best to get to the punctuation quickly, verbs be spared. Again, dramatic effect.
“What??” When my dad lets out the double question mark, I know he’s ready for the punchline. And for why I was driving down Tulane Avenue.
You see, every day since January 6 I’ve eaten a piece of king cake. Amazingly, I can still see my feet.
That evening I was following a tip on a new find: a Vietnamese baker who had no bakery but who did have a network of poboy-daquiri shop outlets around town, including one just north of the VA Hospital. Is that a New Orleans MadLibs enough for you?
This season our Carnival cup doth frosteth over. We enjoyed Gracious Bakery’s chocolate, Gambino’s Epiphany, Nolita’s traditional, Tartine’s cream cheese, Tastee’s McKenzie’s, Brennan’s banana foster, Haydel’s traditional, Manny Randazzo’s traditional, Joe’s Cafe’s traditional, and Dong Phuong’s platonic form. And, according to the baby count, somebody else. When you have that many children, names get lost.
As Johnny Cash once sang, “I’ve been everywhere, man.”
As the Man in Black also once moaned, “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel.”
Turns out a diabetic coma from braided cinnamon and confectionery sugar is harder to come by than it seems.
It also turns out refusing a king cake slice is harder than it seems. Aside from my daily breakfast slice (to quote Shakespeare, a pastry by any other name would smell as sweet), I may have had another slice or two socially. I’m nothing if not prolific. Or at least consistent.
A regular Joltin’ Joe, ya know?
As my slice streak mounted, I was hoping to find out how the Yankee Clipper did it. How did he keep going? How did he handle the pressure? How did he still fit into his pants?
Ok, one of those questions was more personal than historical. But those slimming Yankee pinstripes wouldn’t hurt, right?
Apparently, DiMaggio appreciated the accomplishment, but he preferred another statistic: ten pennants and nine World Series wins in his thirteen-year career.
I can relate. Eating daily king cake is not about me. Mardi Gras is a team sport, after all. Those doughy, often stale slices just help my squad win the day. The plastic babies keep whispering as much: “This is all very normal. Now, get back out to your pre-dawn neutral ground campsite.” Pennant, here we come!
So while our feats might be slightly distinguishable, ol’ Joe and I are in a similar club — Cooperstown certainly has a seasonal bakery, right? Don’t believe me: do the math. A piece of king cake from January 6 Epiphany to March 1 Mardi Gras puts me at 55 consecutive days, just one short of DiMaggio’s 56.
Local baseball historian Arthur Schott, who placed the hit streak in the pantheon of America’s Pastime records, enjoyed one statistical addendum: after DiMaggio’s streak was broken, he hit safely in the next 17 games.
Alas, some records are meant to remain. 17 days of Lenten king cake would be a dubious distinction. Quite unlike, my notable 55 days of carbs.
So don’t mind me. I’ll just be helping myself to another slice.
A sugary toast to DiMaggio and streaks and the season.
You might have caught my preference for Dong Phuong. Enjoy a digital taste.
Highlights from the pennant-winning first weekend: Juvenile and Trombone Shorty really enjoyed my “And We All Vaxxed for You” sign (more Juve, which is to be expected as the wordsmith of the float); Mayor Cantrell so enjoyed my “Teedy” calls she threw me a Femme Fatale clapper and then bent down to find…two “Teedy” cups (we’re in “Phase 2 in the City of Yes,” or so saith the non-Teedy side of the cups); and riders so appreciated my parading but public health concern that I received a COVID grail and a “six-feet-back” bead.