DiMaggio's estate cuts merchandise deal

BY foxsports • February 7, 2011

"Yankee Clipper" Joe DiMaggio was getting ready to step to the plate again and take a few swings as a consumer product brand, the New York Post reported Monday.

The estate of baseball legend DiMaggio cut a deal to put the fleet-footed center fielder's name and likeness on a slew of new merchandise planned to launch next year.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak -- one of the most enduring records in sports -- an assortment of trading cards, bats, T-shirts and jerseys was already in the works, said Michelle Alfandari of the New York-based MODA Licensing.

But the bigger initiative was to develop a stable of enduring product lines inspired by "Joltin' Joe," from food to fragrances, she said. A new line of men's clothing and accessories aimed at department stores would be a special focus.

"Joe's style, grace and elegance transcended sports," said Elizabeth Kanna of Dominant Players, a California-based firm hired to devise the branding strategy for the effort.

Kanna said the deal was worth "millions and millions" but declined to be more specific, saying it was too early in the game.

She likened DiMaggio's superstardom to that of his one-time wife Marilyn Monroe, whose image rights likewise were acquired in January by a different licensing firm. Sources said that deal was cut for less than $50 million after about six months of talks.

"What Joe DiMaggio stood for is as relevant now as it was then," Kanna said, citing "his athleticism, his romanticism, his teamwork, winning and doing the right thing."

Ironically, "doing the right thing" helped delay the licensing initiative since DiMaggio's death on March 8, 1999, said Morris Engelberg, the baseball star's longtime friend and lawyer.

"When Joe was on his deathbed, he gripped me by the tie and said, 'You better protect my name,'" Engelberg said, in his first interview since inking the deal. "I think the reality is that I probably held back too long -- I owed it to the children and family."

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