Even though my name is fairly common, the way my parents came up with my beautiful moniker is actually quite unusual. My parents had agreed that if they had a boy, they would name him “Joseph,” after my father’s favorite baseball player, Joe DiMaggio. If they had a girl, they decided that they would go with “Judy,” after my mother’s mother. Neither of my parents told my grandmother that they planned on naming their child after her, deciding that it would be a nice surprise if they did indeed have a baby girl.
My father had grown up in the Bronx, but he moved to Maine as a teenager to work as a commercial fisherman just off the beautiful coast. My mother had lived in Maine all of her life, but her parents had also lived in New York for the better part of their lives before settling down and having children in the Pine Tree State. Since my father worked on the fishing boats, he would often have several weeks off in between his work duties, so he developed a routine in which he first made my mother breakfast and then did a lot of work around the house in the morning so he could listen to the New York Yankees on the radio in the afternoon.
One of these afternoons, my grandmother came over for a visit and heard the radio. She sat down opposite my father to listen intently to the broadcast while chatting about the Yankees of old. My dad had not realized that his mother-in-law was a Yankees fan or that she had seen Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play at Yankee Stadium. As the story goes, my father asked how she felt about Joe DiMaggio, and she told him that he was the most graceful center fielder she had ever seen. Without prompt -– but perhaps aware of how much my father loved the Yankees — she told my father that she would not be opposed to her grandchild being named after Joe DiMaggio. She even suggested that it could work as both a boy’s name or a girl’s name, noting that “Joe D.” easily became “Jody.”
It was later discovered that my grandmother had found out about my parents’ plan to name me after her and was too humble to allow it to happen while she was still around. My mother is fond of telling me that my name is actually a combination of “Joseph” and “Judy,” and that I am really named after the heroes of both of my parents and not just one. I am proud to carry the name just knowing how much thought went into it, and I love that my grandmother had such a large role in its choosing.