Bases Bloated: The Genetics of Center Field

The center fielder is King of the Outfield. When he calls a ball, everyone backs off. Like Moses, or his alter ego Charlton Heston and most recently Christian Bale – come on Hollywood, get your shit together! – the center fielder can part the Red Sea if the game calls for it. In this case the sea is actually AstroTurf (or real grass depending on the city and how much the tax payers are duped to spending on a ballpark) and it’s green, but metaphors are usually nonsensical and used to make a point in the most roundabout way.

The player who works for his no-salary-capped position at center has the best view of the entire field. However, with great promise comes great responsibility, which I believe is a quote from the Academy Award®-winning documentary, Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The CF has to cover balls that are hit deep, shallow, up the middle, over the infield, over easy, poached and soft-boiled. He has to back up the left fielder and the right fielder. He also has to back up the second baseman and the shortstop. He has to watch the runners and decide where to make the out. He does other stuff too I think?

Position yourself accordingly, get a jump on the ball, look for stealers, run on your toes to catch a pop fly, throw the ball two feet above the cut off man, catch the ball with two hands … the list of rules for the center fielder goes on and on. If the CF isn’t careful, he can lose his team the game. This outfield position requires a certain set of skills so precise that even Liam Neeson doesn’t have them. Are you guys stoked for Taken 4: The Takening of the Pelham? Jokes! I’ve never seen one of those movies but one time when I was visiting my parents in Montréal my mom and I rented Non-Stop which I assume is the sky version of Taken.

Anyway, Joe DiMaggio is one of the best-known center fielders in baseball. The three-time MVP and All-Star spent 13 seasons with the Yankees. For his troubles he received 10 American League Pennants, nine World Series titles, a shoutout in the most overrated Simon and Garfunkel tune and got to share a bed with Marilyn Monroe for a hot minute. He also, according to many biographies that I’ve read about him, became a walking Seinfeld episode and let IT out in public when he had a few too many. Yet, Joe wasn’t the only center fielder in his family. His older brother Vince and his younger brother Dom also played that position.

The patriarch of the DiMaggio family was a fisherman. Fishing requires patience, impeccable hand-eye coordination and the ability to stomach foul odors that make garbage day smell like freshly laundered sheets.

So, what does dad being a fisherman have to do with all three DiMaggio brothers playing center field? I dunno. I’m not a scientist. If I was, I’d have money. Like, a lot of it because I’d invent a vaccine for anti-vaxxers. But research does tell me that genetics are a blueprint for your nervous system. Each brother shares roughly 50 percent of his father’s genes. This means that since dad was able to go out each day and use his skills to catch sea beings, the brothers DiMaggio were able to use those same inherited skills to catch pop flies. The other 50 percent of the boys’ genes came from their mother and it’s safe to say without knowing anything about her is that she was a baller too.

unnamedAs center fielders; Joe, Dom and Vince needed to make split second calculations as to where the ball is headed once hit and how much time they’d have to get there to ensure it lands safely in their gloves. While dad was out on the boat making his own quick decisions and mom was balling wherever she balled, his sons were hustling with the sun in their eyes, trying to make some outs. Dad had the sun in his eyes too. He did spend his days on a boat in San Francisco Bay and mom well, she was doing what she do like a boss. (I seriously do not know a thing about Mrs. DiMaggio. She could’ve been the Zodiac killer for all I know. Jokes! That’s Ted Cruz.)

The DiMaggio brothers all excelled at the same position because it was in their genes. And if it weren’t for their father having a stinky profession, they may never have taken to the outfield in the first place. The senior DiMaggio wanted his sons to follow in his fishy footsteps but they refused due to the stench and opted to play sports instead.

It doesn’t take Gregor “The Science Friar” Mendel’s genes to figure out that whatever the DiMaggio brothers did, they would do it well. Because the genes they received from their parents gifted them with superior skills, they were each able to dominate the center field position. Joltin’ Joe even got to be immortalized in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” arguably one of the more superior tracks on Storm Front.

As you can see, my genetics did not lead me to play center field for the New York Yankees. What they did do was give me a bizarre taste in music, the need to constantly make lists and a wicked case of dermatillomania. But at least I don’t take my junk out when I’ve had too many.


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