Originally created 01/19/99

DiMaggio released from hospital



HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Next stop for Joe DiMaggio, Yankee Stadium.

Yes, that's correct.

After 99 days in intensive care, after lung cancer surgery, pneumonia, and an infection that nearly killed him and left him in a coma, Joe DiMaggio went home Monday.

Now he's getting ready for a return to the Bronx, where he hopes to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day April 9.

The 84-year-old Yankee Clipper received last rites after he lapsed into a coma last month. But each time doctors said he probably wouldn't survive, DiMaggio proved them wrong.

"Mr. DiMaggio wishes to express his thanks to the doctors, ICU nurses and staff at Memorial Regional Hospital, for helping him recover from infectious pneumonia, as well as to the 250 million people out there who are praying for him," his lawyer, Morris Engelberg, said in a statement.

"Mr. DiMaggio is looking forward to opening day in Yankee Stadium."

The notoriously private DiMaggio left the hospital with little fanfare at about 9:30 a.m. Some hospital workers said they didn't realize he had left.

Other details were not disclosed. A message left at Engelberg's office was not immediately returned, and Dr. Earl Barron's office said the doctor had no comment.

WTVJ Channel 6 in Miami reported that DiMaggio would continue his recovery at home.

DiMaggio, voted baseball's greatest living player in 1969, entered the hospital Oct. 12 and had surgery two days later to remove a cancerous lung tumor. He had a series of setbacks after a serious infection set in.

On Dec. 10-11, DiMaggio was in a coma and near death, with Barron calling it a "very dire situation." DiMaggio's family came to his bedside, but the Hall of Famer awakened.

"It's completely unexpected," Barron said at the time, attributing the turnaround to a decision to administer an antibiotic intravenously rather than orally.

After he came out of the coma, DiMaggio ordered doctors to stop giving public updates on his condition.

Just 5 weeks ago, even some of DiMaggio's closest friends had given up hope. His family signed a "do not resuscitate" order, which Barron said would allow DiMaggio to die with a "measure of dignity."

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner visited DiMaggio in early January.

"Joe will certainly toss out the first ball," Steinbrenner said. "It's a wonderful moment for me personally and for the fans."

DiMaggio was the Yankees center fielder from 1936 to 1951, except for three seasons he missed while serving in World War II. During that time he played for 10 pennant winners and nine World Series champions, batted .325, hit 361 home runs and, in 1941, had a hitting streak that lasted a record 56 games.