How Mr. Coffee Inventor Convinced Joe DiMaggio to Be Pitchman

The inventor of the Mr. Coffee machine Vincent Marotta died at age 91.

— -- Here's how Joltin' Joe became Mr. Coffee.

The creator of the famed coffee machines died Saturday at age 91, but one of his favorite stories was how he roped in the famed former Yankee Joe DiMaggio to be a spokesman in the mid-1970s.

"It was during the early days of Mr. Coffee and he felt he had a tiger by the tail," Sue Parente, the daughter of creator Vincent Marotta, said of her father, who died at his home in Pepper Pike, Ohio. "Sales were good, but to really make it a national brand, they needed a spokesman who people could relate to."

When the real estate market showed signs of slowing in the early 1970s, Marotta, who had six children and 11 grandchildren, began trying to determine why coffee made at home didn't taste as good as restaurant coffee. It took him two years to create the Mr. Coffee machine with his high school friend Samuel Glazer. They co-founded North American Systems and brought the machine to market in 1972.

A few years later, he went looking for a pitchman.

"At that time, Mr. DiMaggio really shied away from the limelight," Parente said. "He was a private fellow but amazingly they got connected."

It just so happened DiMaggio was familiar with the Mr. Coffee machine because he had just won a device in a golf tournament.

"He knew it, which surprised my dad, because it was new," Parente said. "My dad said, 'I would love for you to be my spokesman,' but he turned him down. He said, 'Thank you very much, but it’s not what I do.'"

But Marotta wasn't ready to throw in the towel. The next day, Parente's parents flew to San Francisco and called DiMaggio again to have lunch.

"By the end of the lunch, they had a handshake and it was done. There were no lawyers -- just two men who agreed to do it," Parente said. "That really allowed the coffee maker to take off with Joe DiMaggio as spokesman.

"It was one of my dad’s favorite stories because he couldn’t understand why he did it. They were both two Italian-Americans and they kind of clicked."

Parente said that her father was "very proud of all the jobs he could create in northern Ohio."

She also recalled her father's many accomplishments outside business, including charitable contributions to the Cleveland Foundation and Cleveland Food Bank.

"He was a member of that greatest generation where they got things done," Parente said. "He started with very little but accomplished so much."

The family will have a private wake on Friday and a funeral mass on Saturday.