NYPD Det. Sonny Grosso: While the Yankees Open Battle Royale with the Red Sox, he recalls Joe DiMaggio’s Exploits
Aaron Judge, the leader of the new “Core Four”, hit a first inning HR that set the tone and helped the Yankees win the Wild Card game and send them next into a much anticipated ALDS against the hated Red Sox. As always there are big expectations on the Yankees, who’ve won a record 27 World Series titles, the last in 2009, the first year at their new Yankee Stadium.
But hopes were raised again last season when the Yankees made an exciting run to Game 7 of the ALCS and within one game of the World Series. But, they still fired manager Joe Girardi and hired Aaron Boone, who’s now managing a new young “core” of Judge, Severino, Andujar and rookie Torres. Overtaking legendary Mickey Mantle, Torres became the youngest player in the franchise’s history to hit a walk-off homer last May. And, the Yankees still managed to win 100 games despite a ton of injuries to guys like Judge.
Hope springs eternal for lifelong Yankee fan, Sonny Grosso, the NYPD detective who helped bust The French Connection case, which was adapted into a 5-time Oscar winning movie, directed by William Friedkin. After retiring from the NYPD, Grosso later became an award-winning TV/movie producer.
Grosso has watched some of the great Yankees legends live — from Joe DiMaggio through Mantle to Derek Jeter — and met some of the newer ones at his weekly Monday at Rao’s dinner at the famous East Harlem eatery.
As Yankees fans look forward to fulfilling expectations this October, Grosso recalls some memorable meetings with the great DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper who won nine titles with his beloved team. In an excerpt from his upcoming book Harlem to Hollywood, Grosso recalls:
“As a kid, during World War II, one man took our collective minds off the escalating conflict for awhile. DiMaggio had that amazing 56-game hitting streak, and he was the biggest thing going on in the country. Every day after the game, people on the subway, strangers on the street were asking, ‘What did DiMaggio do?; It was a like a collective hysteria about the streak. ‘Did he get another hit?’ Everything else in the news, and there was a hell of a lot going on, was all secondary to DiMaggio.”
Grosso’s boyhood pal Eddie Torres, who later became a famed New York state Supreme Court judge and successful author (Carlito’s Way and Q & A), says DiMaggio had a ‘majestic, royal quality about him’ that appealed to Latinos as well. He adds:
“DiMaggio was the first big Italian hero, before guys like Frank Sinatra, someone I filmed three movies with. But DiMaggio crossed over ethnic lines, a man who just played the game. And after that, he got married to the gorgeous Marilyn Monroe.”
Later, after Grosso had segued from decorated NYPD detective to movie producer, he had a once-in-a-lifetime, four-hour plus dinner conversation at wonderful Manducati’s restaurant in Queens with his hero. Set up by his pal, Dr. Rock Positano, as a special birthday gift, Grosso explains:
“We had an unforgettable conversation. And, just so you know, there were three subjects you didn’t talk about with Joe: Marilyn, Frank Sinatra and JFK. If you did, he’d say he was going to the bathroom and then he wouldn’t come back! I told him I had a scrapbook on him. But also that when he met Marilyn, I had begun a collection of clippings on her, starting at the back of the same scrapbook. And the two collections met in the middle. I remember Joe saying to me, ‘You telling me you caused me to marry Marilyn?’ Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio — what a honey and what a guy!”
So they spoke about everything else and about Grosso’s desire to produce his movie biography:
“When Joe left after dinner, I said to him, ‘Joe, I’ve waited my whole life for this. So how about a little hug and kiss?’ He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘Well, if you have to.’ So joking I said, ‘On the lips?’ He replied, ‘Hey, c’mon, take it easy!’ We laughed, I hugged him and then Joe said, ‘Me and my lawyer are writing a book and I told him, If anybody films this book it’s going to be Sonny Grosso.’ Joe left and I’m floating on air. I rushed back in and told my friends he’s writing a book and he wants me to produce his movie.”
As a token of remembrance for that unforgettable evening, Grosso had the chair, that this legend had sat on, engraved with his “#5” and with the names “Sonny Grosso and Joe DiMaggio.” Grosso quips:
“When I sent Joe a photo of the chair, he wrote back thanking me but then asked, ‘Hey, Sonny, who says you get top billing?’ Not long after, the Yankee Clipper took ill and passed away. But that famous chair still floats around Manducati’s today and the story behind it helps me keep Joe DiMaggio’s memory alive.”