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Joe DiMaggio statue ‘safe’ after removal from Taylor St.—but residents want answers

Play ball!

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

He’s safe, but he’s not where you think.

The $150,000 statue of baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, which was abruptly removed from a plaza across the street from the closed National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame — leading to an uproar from some Little Italy residents — is now being housed in Elk Grove Village.

Whaaa?

“We brought Joe back to his creator to be refurbished,” said attorney Enrico Mirabelli, who serves as general counsel for the Hall of Fame, which has owned the statue since 1991.

“The great DiMaggio is not in hiding. He is being housed at the statue’s birthplace,” he said.

“It is safe. No one is stealing it.”

Meanwhile, the Little Italy Chicago Neighborhood Association is asking for an accounting on whether the Hall of Fame has proof they own the statue that has been on Taylor Street for two decades.

Mirabelli’s response: “We own it but I am now intent on looking for the bill of sale.”

LICNA President Joe Esposito stated in a press release Friday, “Should NIASHF prove ownership of the statue, then it is their right to remove it, although their method of removal was inconsiderate to the community that has been its home for 20 years.”

Not to mention the city constructed a piazza with two fountains, and erected plaques and a pedestal specifically built to hold the statue. A dedication ceremony was attended by DiMaggio and Muhammad Ali.

The empty platform where the Joe DiMaggio statue once stood in Little Italy. In the background is the closed Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. | Provided/John Weidel

The empty platform where the Joe DiMaggio statue once stood in Little Italy. In the background is the closed Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. | Provided/John Weidel

Resident John Weidel, who took video of the statue being taken away last Friday, said the move was “a low blow” to the neighborhood.

The statue, part of the Hall of Fame’s memorabilia collection, is part of ongoing negotiations over plans to relocate the museum to Rosemont — but with “a special, new incentive,” Mirabelli told Sneed.

“There could be a new Joe DiMaggio restaurant located next to the Hall of Fame and the statue,” he said.

“We’ve received assurances from the attorney for Joe DiMaggio’s estate we could build one. The one in San Francisco no longer exists.”

Mirabelli, who is also a museum trustee, remembers chatting with DiMaggio in 1998 at the 50th anniversary of their Hall of Fame.

“The man had an amazing memory!”

“He remembered every minute of a baseball game 50 years earlier in 1938 or 39, when he was struck out by a curveball … and he recalled every pitchout and every play!

“And, no, we didn’t talk about Marilyn Monroe,” said Mirabelli, referring to DiMaggio’s legendary ex-wife.