Marilyn & Joe, 1954
Marilyn & Joe, 1954

They seemed an unlikely couple: the movie star and the baseball player. The vivacious blonde who needed people around her, needed always to be in the spotlight, and the quiet man with the gentlemanly manners who didn't seem to need anyone. Yet here they were, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, having dinner at a New York restaurant on their first date. They found little in common to talk about at first, but this night in early 1952 would lead to a marriage that would last less than a year, and a friendship that would last to the end of each of their lives.

By 1952, Marilyn Monroe had firmly established herself as a rising star whose career was taking off meteorically. Joe DiMaggio had retired from baseball the previous year, capping a decade in which he and the game were almost synonymous. He had expressed a desire to meet the glamorous actress, so a mutual friend set them up for the New York dinner date. Things were awkward that evening till Mickey Rooney wandered up to pay homage to the baseball great. Marilyn, herself no stranger to fame, was impressed with Joe's calm charisma, and by the end of the evening had agreed to see him again.

So began their courtship, which was to culminate in a marriage that was ill-starred from the start. He was by nature a jealous type, and she was the object of desire of millions of men. Her career made demands that kept her traveling, always working, meeting people; he wanted a wife who stayed at home. Her ambition was supreme, and she left in the middle of their honeymoon to entertain U.S. troops in Korea. He understood her drive, but in the end his pride couldn't tolerate sharing her with the world. Just ten months after they were married, the couple divorced in October 1954.

Yet they would remain friends until the end of her tragically short life, eight years later. Their relationship was complex and enduring, and after her death he made it his business to see that there were always fresh flowers on her grave. To the end of his own life, those who knew him knew that he still loved her and mourned her loss.

The baseball bearing Marilyn Monroe's autograph, auctioned by CU One-Of-A-Kind Auctions on October 30, was signed in 1952. This was during the first flush of the Monroe-DiMaggio romance, and there's every likelihood he was at her side that day in the ballpark as she penned her name for a devoted fan.

In the years that followed, her world would grow darker and more complex: secret affairs with heads of state, monumental clashes with studios and producers, and finally, bouts with alcohol and drug abuse which would contribute to her untimely death in 1964.

But the baseball remains as it was, recalling the carefree spirit of those early days together, the good times when they were America's favorite couple. It's something to be cherished as much for what it represents as what it is: a symbol of a time in Marilyn's life when she was young, in love, and smiled at the world in sunshine.

Monroe entertaining troops in Korea
Monroe entertaining troops in Korea
The DiMaggios in Hawaii
The DiMaggios in Hawaii