Activist Touts Allegations Of Mob Ties In Decrying Removal Of Chicago's Joe DiMaggio Statue

Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio (November 25, 1914 – March 8, 1999), aka Joltin’ Joe, the Yankee Clipper, played centerfield for the Yankees, achieved an historic 56-game hitting streak in 1941, and won legendary status. (Decades later, in 1978, he started appearing in Mr. Coffee commercials and helped transform the automatic drip coffeemaker into an iconic household appliance.)

Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio statue
Removal of Joe DiMaggio statue from Chicago's Piazza DiMaggio.

DiMaggio was born in California, raised in San Francisco, became legendary playing ball in New York, died in Florida, and was memorialized in Chicago courtesy of Piazza DiMaggio, a much-cherished plot of land on Taylor and Bishop Streets in Chicago's Little Italy section that boasted a statue of DiMaggio's likeness. 

The Hall's first inductee in 1978, DiMaggio attended the 1991 unveiling ceremony for his statue, which had been sculpted by Ferdinand Rebecchini. Standing more than 11 feet tall, for 20 years, the Joe DiMaggio statue stood across the street from the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

And in early 2019, it vanished, and the plaintive wail "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" could be heard for real. The beloved $150,000 bronze effigy of the all-time greatest slugger had been abruptly removed, fueling an uproar among Little Italy residents. No, nobody shoved the statue in the back of a truck and drove off. Rather, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, which lays claim to ownership of the statue, had lost its lease and decided to pack it in. The statue was sent to be refurbished and will make its grand reappearance .... somewhere else.

Ron Onesti, the president of the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, said he understands the anger some Little Italy residents are feeling, noting, “I was born on Taylor Street as well, and having the Piazza DiMaggio was very, very special to me personally and to my family as well."

Onesti, however, said he remains committed to placing the statue in the Hall’s new home on the Northwest Side.

Please note the byline of this story....Your fearless blogger wrote only the preceding background. As with all stories that bear his byline here, Nick Christophers did all the work...

In January 2019 in the Windy City of Chicago, a statue of the famous Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio that has been a part of the city's landscape for years was suddenly relocated, and certain individuals within the Italian American community aren't pleased.

The statue was formerly located on the cross section at Taylor and Bishop Streets in the Little Italy section of Chicago.

Ron Onesti, a representative of the Italian American Sports Hall of Fames, was the sole motivator on relocating the statue.

One the key advocates of returning the statue to its rightful place was political activist Frank Coconate. In not so many words he was told by “unofficial reps” of Ornesti to leave it be. The other individual backing the relocation of the statue is Jackie Cerone Jr who is none other than the son of the late Jackie Cerone Sr mob bigwig of the Outfit. Jackie Jr is an attorney and on the board of the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. The statue was allegedly stolen by the Ornesti /Cerone camp to please their own gain. Even though the fixture has been a part of DiMaggio Piazza for 20 years.

Ornesti himself has been alleged to be connected to organized crime and has been involved with the National Italian American sports hall of fame since 2000. If this was to stay it would be the best bloodless hit that the Outfit has ever staged. Cerone Jr still has the ability to use his bloodline to get what he wants. It is also good to note that his sister is also a Cook County Judge which we are sure may be helpful to him in some way.

Coconate was asked by the representatives of Little Italy to help fund the Dimaggio Statue of the City owned DiMaggio Piazza which Coconate was more than happy to do so. Hence, this affront to his efforts by Cerone and Ornesti has fueled Coconate’s desire to do the right thing. It was learned that Coconate was told by Cerone loyalists as well as the Hall of Fame attorney, Enrico Marbelli to back off or there will be consequences.

It was even reported by CBS anchor Jim Williams that local taxpayers were irked that the statue was abruptly removed without notice. It seemed that the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame said it owned it and had the right to move it. The statue was erected in 1991 and the late DiMaggio was even there to support it. After the lease ran out it was moved to the Rebechini Studios in Elk Grove Village.

Glenn Rebechini’s father created the statue at those same studios. Ornesti claims he understands the people’s attachment to the statue but to make up for its removal is willing to invest in the DiMaggio Plaza as a conciliation. Coconate does not fall for Ornesti and Cerone’s “honest claims” and backs the locals disapproval. The Italian American Sports Hall will be opening at 3417 N. Harlem Ave., where it will re-unveil the refurbished statue. They say that the mob has vanished from Chicago yet according to some it has only hidden in the shadow of the political machine. The story in ongoing and who knows where it will lead.