The Yankees arrived in the nation’s capital to play a doubleheader against the Washington Senators, and 31,000 fans showed up to watch DiMaggio’s attempt to tie and pass George Sisler’s record. Pitching for the Senators in the opening game was knuckleballer Dutch Leonard, probably the last type of pitcher a hitter on a hot streak wanted to face. DiMaggio had trouble in his first two at bats, lining out to center in the second and popping up to third in the fourth. In the sixth inning, Leonard made the mistake of trying to sneak a fastball past our hero, and DiMaggio roped a double to left center, tying the record at forty-one straight. In the ninth inning, Tommy Henrich knocked a two-run blast into the seats, capping the scoring in the 9-4 Yankee victory and stretching the team’s homer streak to twenty-four games in a row.
But back to DiMaggio. As he prepared for his opportunity to pass Sisler in the second game, he discovered that his bat had been stolen. In these days before star players had boxes of signature bats at their disposal, DiMaggio suddenly found himself without a sword to enter the afternoon’s battle. Some weeks earlier, however, Tommy Henrich had borrowed a bat from DiMaggio, looking to change his luck. It had certainly worked for Henrich, and now, in this desparate hour, he offered it back to DiMaggio.
With his new old bat in hand, DiMaggio looked uneasily towards the second game. He usually prepared his bats by sanding the handles to the desired thickness, but there was no time for that now. Also, in what was typical of ballplayers then and now, he was quite superstitious, and didn’t like the idea of changing anything in the middle of the streak, especially not his bat, but there was no choice.
For much of the game, it looked as if the bat thief had saved Sisler’s spot in the record book. DiMaggio flew out to right in the first inning, lined out to short in the third, then flied out to center in the fifth. As he came to bat in the seventh inning, it was possibly his last shot at the record. With the crowd buzzing, he lined a 1-0 fastball into left field for a clean single. The Washington crowd, unconcerned about their team’s 7-5 loss to the Yanks, roared in appreciation of DiMaggio’s feat — forty-two straight games. DiMaggio’s response? “Sure, I’m tickled. It’s the most excitement I guess I’ve known since I came into the majors.”
Joe Gordon’s second inning home run pushed that streak to twenty-five straight, and helped the Yankees move a game and a half ahead of second place Cleveland.