By now much of the nation was following DiMaggio’s streak on a daily basis through radio updates and newspaper reports. In addition to the fans, DiMaggio’s teammates were acutely aware of what was going on, as evidenced by the drama of this thirty-eighth game. DiMaggio flied out to left in the second, but his fourth inning at bat was more eventful. He hit a sharp grounder which shortstop John Berardino booted for an obvious error. (The twenty-four-year-old Berardino, by the way, would have a forgettable eleven-year career with a handful of baseball teams, but a forty-year career as an actor. Soap fans might remember his thirty-year stint as Dr. Steve Hardy on “General Hospital”.) As DiMaggio crossed first base safely, his Yankee teammates gathered on the top step of the dugout, peering into the pressbox and awaiting the official scorer’s decision. When the error sign was given, the players were furious. DiMaggio was 0 for 2.
After another groundout in the sixth, this time to third, the pressure began to mount, and this is where things got interesting. The Yankees led the Browns 3-1 as they came to bat for what would likely be the final time in the bottom of the eighth inning, and DiMaggio was due up fourth. The first batter, Johnny Sturm, popped up for the first out, but Red Rolfe came up next and managed a walk. With DiMaggio on deck, Tommy Henrich stepped up to the plate but realized that all would be lost if he were to hit into a double play. He had homered earlier to extend the home run streak, but now he was more concerned about DiMaggio’s streak. He called time to consult with Yankee manager Joe McCarthy and suggested that maybe he should lay down a bunt. Even though the score and game situation clearly dictated otherwise, McCarthy gave the okay. Henrich dropped his bunt and advanced Rolfe to second, avoiding the double play and bringing DiMaggio to the plate for one final shot. At this point in the streak, DiMaggio had become more aggressive than usual at the plate, prefering to jump on the first hittable pitch he saw rather than put himself in a two-strike hole or accept a base on balls. In this final at bat, he took the first pitch he saw and roped it past the third baseman and into the left field corner for a double. Both the crowd and his teammates gave him a prolonged ovation. Thirty-eight straight.
As further evidence of the crowd’s focus on DiMaggio, Yankee starting pitcher Marius Russo took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but no one seemed to notice. The Yankees won the game, 4-1, and remained in a first place tie, but on this day at least, that didn’t seem to matter.
[Photo Credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt]