Upper West Sider Lives in the Shadow, and Apartment, of Joe DiMaggio
UPPER WEST SIDE — Joe DiMaggio was having a good July in 1941.
His wife was expecting their child. He walloped his way into history, safely hitting in 56 straight games. And then the day after that streak ended he launched another through 16 more games. By the end of it, Joltin' Joe had established a hitting record that still stands 72 years later, having hit safely in 72 of 73 games.
Through it all, DiMaggio and his then-wife, Dorothy Arnold, lived in the penthouse atop 400 West End Ave. Tucker Andersen lives there now, and over the past 20 years he has turned his home into a shrine not only to the Yankee Clipper but to his own athletic achievements.
Along with baseball caps, commemorative baseballs and other memorabilia are mementos from the 71-year-old Andersen's own streak — having run the New York City Marathon nearly every year since it became a five-borough race in 1976.
Andersen fell in love with the Yankees as a kid in 1950s Connecticut, listening to them over the radio.
“I remember him as part of this unstoppable Yankees team. The team in those years was just steam rolling over everybody,” said Andersen, now a retired investments manager.
"What impressed you about Joe DiMaggio was that he was not only a great player, but a class act."
Andersen and his wife stumbled onto the Upper West Side apartment in 1994, buying it for "just under $1 million." It seemed perfect for their commutes to work. It was close to the finish line for the New York marathon, a block from Zabar's, the 1 train, and close to the West Side Highway, an escape route to their Connecticut home.
When they inspected the place, Andersen noticed there on the mantel above the fireplace was a picture of DiMaggio himself, standing in the same room as he and his wife now stood, surrounded by the floor-to-ceiling wood paneling that hadn't been changed.
“‘Oh yeah, this used to be Joe DiMaggio’s apartment,’” said the widow selling her home.
“If I hadn’t been a baseball fan and recognized him this wouldn’t have even come up,” Andersen said.
The revelation didn’t sway the couple's purchase, Andersen insisted, but he's enjoyed the thrill friends feel when they visit.
“It turned out to be a great decision,” Andersen said.
Though he tries not to focus on it, sometimes the legacy of the former tenant creeps into Andersen's mind.
“Sometimes you go out onto the terrace and look out and think, ‘Hey, DiMaggio used to be standing here and doing the exact same thing,’” Andersen said.
Since he bought the place, friends have bombarded Andersen with DiMaggio photos, books, and other memorabilia, which he's hung beside the medals and commemorative mugs he's collected after his marathons.
One of the many DiMaggio mementos is a painting of the final hit in his streak that hangs right outside the elevator.
“Every year, I would come home from the marathon and it’d be another year in my streak,” Andersen said. “One of the things that used to bring me joy was walking by that photo and asking myself, ‘I wonder how close to 56 I’ll get.’”
He was sidelined in 2009 with a knee injury, but ran the marathon again the next two years, and hopes to continue running it as long as his health keeps up.
“Whether I can or not we’ll see, but I want to,” Andersen said. “It hasn’t stopped me so far."