Public Lives

Diplomatic Salute To Yankee Clipper

The New York Times—June 26, 2000

So what was Henry A. Kissinger doing at a dinner commemorating Joe DiMaggio?

Swapping memories with other friends of DiMaggio, who died last year at 84.

''I introduced them,'' said Dr. Rock G. Positano, a foot and ankle specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery and chairman of the dinner, which raised money for a program for learning-disabled students at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn. ''I took care of Joe for his heel problem. Henry's also a patient of mine, and has always been a crazy Joe D. fan. One time I said, 'How would you like to meet Kissinger?' He goes, 'Oh, Doc, I'd love to.' Henry was in one of my examining rooms. So I go into the room and say, 'Henry, I have somebody here who wants to stay hello to you.' He looks at me. I'll never forget it. Joe walks in and Henry says, 'Oh, my God, it's Joe DiMaggio.' '' Dr. Kissinger's memories of DiMaggio went further back, to the days when Dr. Kissinger was just another fan in the bleachers.

''I was working in a shaving-brush factory,'' he said. ''Eleven dollars a week, net $10.89. I gave $8 to my parents, which left $1.10, and seats were 55 cents. For me, DiMaggio was one of the superstars.''

Fast-forward past Dr. Kissinger's days at Harvard and in government, to the 75th anniversary dinner for Time magazine in 1998. ''The big highlight was the president wanted to sit with Joe, and everybody took it as a slap to the president that he sat with Henry,'' Dr. Positano said. ''What people didn't know about Joe was he was a man of his word. He had agreed to go to that dinner to sit with Henry Kissinger, and he was going to sit with Henry Kissinger. The next day in the columns, it was, 'Joe snubbed the president.' Joe told me, 'I'm not snubbing the president, I made a commitment to sit with Dr. Kissinger.' ''

Read the full story at NYTimes.com.

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