More than 50,000 fans packed Yankee Stadium to watch DiMaggio as he took aim at the all-time hitting streak record. Wee Willie Keeler had hit in forty-four straight games in 1897. The crowd was anticipating a record, and they were also no doubt excited to watch the Yanks battle Ted Williams and the Red Sox. In the opening game, DiMaggio came up empty in his first two at bats, fouling out to first in the first inning and grounding out to third in the third. In the fifth, he hit another grounder to third, but third baseman Jim Tabor bobbled it momentarily before firing wildly to first, allowing DiMaggio to reach second.
The official scorer gave him a hit, although many disputed the call. The crowd, incidentally, was left in the dark, as the scoreboard at that time did not flash the H or E that modern fans are accustomed to seeing. Most people in the park didn’t know whether or not the streak had been extended. With his next at bat, however, DiMaggio erased all doubt with a clean line drive into left field. The crowd erupted with an ovation that lasted a full five minutes. The Yankees won the game, 7-2, but for the first time in nearly a month they didn’t hit any balls over the wall. Their record of hitting home runs in twenty-five straight games still stands today. (I think it’s been tied recently, if I remember correctly; it’s a difficult record to track down.)
It should also be noted that there were two DiMaggios playing center field on this day; Joe’s younger brother Dom was in the other dugout with the Red Sox, and he hit his fourth home run of the season in the opener of the double header.
DiMaggio took care of business much earlier in the second game. He lined a single over shortstop for a single in the first inning to tie Keeler’s record. The Yankees won easily in an abbreviated five-inning game, 9-2, and stretched their lead in the American League to 2 1/2 games over the Cleveland Indians.