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DiMaggio Gave Millions to Hospital

December 11, 1998

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) _ Joe DiMaggio always kept a low profile during his regular visits to the children’s hospital bearing his name, hoping to bring joy to its young patients without calling attention to himself.

``You’ll see him ... sitting by a child’s bedside telling a story or you’ll catch a glimpse of him peeking in at the babies and asking about an infant’s condition, or you’ll see him signing autographs for some little slugger who’s recognized him,″ the hospital’s newsletter reads.

While the Hall of Famer was battling pneumonia and a lung infection Friday at Memorial Regional Hospital, part of the medical center that includes Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, more cheerful images filled its corridors.

Black and white photos of a young, tall New York Yankees slugger visiting children. Recent color shots of an older DiMaggio doing the same.

``I love these little guys, I really do,″ DiMaggio said during the 1996 dedication of the hospital’s pediatric emergency room, for which he has helped raise millions of dollars.

``I have grandchildren and I now have great-grandchildren. I know the pains we all have to go through in watching over them.″

In the lobby is a display case with bats, dozens of unsigned baseballs and a teddy bear with Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital written across its chest.

``The man really likes children, that’s one of the reasons why he lent his name to an institution like this,″ said Dr. Joseph Angella, a pediatrician. ``He has a lot of warmth and a lot of very deep feeling for children.″

A ``Hall of Fame″ greets visitors to the fourth floor of the pediatrics wing, where a huge mural depicts memories from DiMaggio’s celebrated life. A Life magazine cover from Aug. 1, 1949, shows DiMaggio in pinstripes and flashing his famous smile. The cover story is called ``It’s Great to be Back.″

DiMaggio is pictured with such celebrities as Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, former President Reagan, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and actor Tom Selleck.

``It’s been very meaningful for this county to have his name attached to the children’s hospital,″ Angella said. ``It’s instant recognition of the greatest living sports legend.″

Framed posters in the elevator encourage riders to join the Joe DiMaggio fan club. Visitors are led through the corridors of the pediatrics wing by a trail of floor stencils bearing the hospital’s insignia _ a baseball glove holding a heart.

A bat signed by the former Yankees center fielder reads, ``To all the children at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital _ a speedy recovery.″

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