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Joe DiMaggio was ‘Cousin Joe’ to new Rays pitcher

Chris Mazza, acquired last week from the Red Sox, met the Hall of Famer once, but he was more impressed later.
Joe DiMaggio gets a hit in a then-record 42nd straight game with a single in Game 2 of a doubleheader at Washington on June 29, 1941.
Joe DiMaggio gets a hit in a then-record 42nd straight game with a single in Game 2 of a doubleheader at Washington on June 29, 1941. [ Times files ]
Published Feb. 21

Reliever Chris Mazza, acquired last week from the Red Sox, has an interesting enough backstory, toiling for seven years in the minors, getting released twice and pitching for two independent league teams before reaching the majors in June 2019 with the Mets.

But most noteworthy: His familial connection to Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.

“My grandma on my dad’s side is cousins with Joe, Dom and Vince (DiMaggio),’' said Mazza, 31. “So it’s my third cousin, technically. I had only met Joe once, and that was when I was like 6 years old at a family reunion.

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“To be honest, I had no idea who he actually was. I didn’t really comprehend until I was a little bit older, around 10 or 11, and me and my older brother were watching ESPN Classic and they’re talking about the 56-game hitting streak.

“And my brother looks at me and goes, ‘You know that’s our cousin, right?’ I go, ‘What are you talking about?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, that’s Joe DiMaggio, grandma’s cousin. You met him a couple years ago at a family reunion.’ I go, ‘So that’s who that guy was.’ ’’

Mazza said he relished the “very emotional” experience last year to see and take pictures of the plaque at Yankee Stadium honoring Joe DiMaggio, who died in 1999, and to play at the existing older stadiums (Fenway, Wrigley) where his cousins did.