"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: The Streak
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June 20, 1941: Game 33

The Detroit Tigers came to New York for a three-game series and were greeted rudely by the Bronx Bombers, who crushed Detroit pitching and came away with a 14-4 win. Tommy Henrich hit a high drive into the right field seats in the first inning, keeping the Yankee home run streak alive at sixteen games, and DiMaggio singled immediately after to keep his own string going. He would add three more hits, two singles and a double, to give himself a nice 4 for 5 afternoon. With seven hits in two days, DiMaggio’s season average was up to .354, good enough for fifth in the league but still far behind Ted Williams, who led the galaxy at .420. DiMaggio had now moved to within eight games of Sisler’s mark, still believed to be the all-time record, and he seemed to be paying attention. Much later, DiMaggio would look back at this game as pivotal: “I didn’t get warm about this thing until the 33rd game.” As summer arrived in the Bronx, he’d get warmer still.

June 19, 1941: Game 32

DiMaggio avoided any drama by singling in the first inning, bringing the streak to thirty-two games in a row. Apparently relaxed, he went on to collect another single in the fifth and a homerun in the eighth. These efforts, along with a grand slam by Charlie “King Kong” Keller (that’s Keller in the photo above), led to a much needed Yankee victory as they salvaged the finale of the their three-game set with the White Sox, winning 7-2. Thirty-two straight for DiMag, fifteen for Yankee home run hitters, and a home run in three straight games for Keller. Not bad at all.

June 18, 1941: Game 31

The Yankees lost their second straight to the White Sox, coming up on the short end of a 3-2 score. DiMaggio managed only a single in three at bats, a blooper over the head of shortstop Luke Appling, but it was enough to keep the streak alive. Charlie Keller’s two-run homerun in the second accounted for all of the Yankee runs and made it fourteen straight games that New York batters had homered.

There were some who believed that DiMaggio’s single hits in games thirty and thirty-one were questionable at best. The ball that hopped off of Appling’s shoulder on the 17th was seen as especially controversial, and various reporters at the time reported that fans at the Stadium stood in silence as they awaited the official scorer’s decision. That official scorer was Dan Daniel, and in October of 2007 David Robeson wrote an article in the Walrus in which he asserted that Daniel’s biased scoring had erroneously given DiMaggio two hits that he didn’t deserve. (The hit in the 31st game glanced off of Appling’s glove, and Robeson argues it should’ve been scored an error as well.) Here’s the crux of Robeson’s argument:

In keeping with the ethics of the era, Dan Daniel, a popular writer who had been covering baseball since 1909, enjoyed all the perks of covering the Yankees. He travelled with and befriended the players, and had his expenses paid for by the club itself. Daniel was, by modern standards, part of the team, as much a PR man as a reporter. He wrote of DiMaggio extensively, championing “The Big Dago” before DiMaggio had even appeared in the bigs, and it was he who authored the quote, “Here is the replacement for Babe Ruth.” The Clipper made for wonderful copy: he was a good-looking bachelor who patrolled the most revered position in all of sports, centre field for the New York Yankees. Daniel also happened to be the most important witness to the streak. The reason? This friend of DiMaggio and quasi-employee of the New York Yankees just happened, unbelievably, to be the Yankees’ official home-game scorer as well — the very arbiter of hits and errors. For games at Yankee Stadium, Daniel, and Daniel alone, decided if DiMaggio was to be credited with a hit.

There is, of course, no video of either play, so we are left only with a box score and a handful of written accounts. One thing is certain, though. There are countless variables in the game of baseball, ranging from an umpire’s view of a pitch in the neighborhood of the outside corner to the distance of one park’s fence as compared to another. An official scorer’s decision is simply one more thing which is beyond a player’s control. DiMaggio had a hit on the 17th, another on the 18th, and lots more after that.

June 17, 1941: Game 30

The Chicago White Sox snapped New York’s winning streak at eight with an 8-7 victory, but the two other Yankee streaks continued. Charlie Keller crushed an upper-deck shot in the eighth inning, temporarily tying the score and making it thirteen straight games with Yankee homeruns, but the Sox won it in the ninth. DiMaggio set the all-time Yankee hitting streak record at thirty games, but he needed some luck. He came to the plate in the seventh inning, still without a hit, and smashed a hard ground ball directly to Chicago shortstop Luke Appling. But just before Appling could gather in the grounder and put an end to the streak, the ball took a horrible bad hop, bounding up and hitting Appling in the shoulder. He had no play, and DiMaggio kept streaking. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Much more on this tomorrow…

June 16, 1941: Game 29

In the final game of their showdown at the Stadium with the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees grabbed a 6-4 victory and moved to within a game of first place. DiMaggio hit a double to left in the fifth inning, setting a Yankee record by hitting in his twenty-ninth straight game. Second baseman Joe Gordon had homered earlier in the fourth inning, meaning the Yanks had gone deep in twelve straight. The Yankees had now won eight games in a row, and seemed to have finally gotten their season headed in the right direction. It’s interesting that the current Yankees seem to have found their way as well.

June 15, 1941: Game 28

As the Yankees played on consecutive days for the first time in a week, DiMaggio had only one hit against the Cleveland Indians on this afternoon in the Bronx, but it was enough to continue two streaks. DiMaggio hit his thirteenth homerun of the year, an upper deck blast which extended his personal hitting streak to twenty-eight and the Yankees team homerun streak to eleven. The Yankees beat the first place Indians, 3-2, for their seventh win in a row; they were now only two games out of the top spot in the league.

At twenty-eight games, DiMaggio was now only one game behind the Yankee record, held jointly by Earl Coombs (1931) and current Cleveland manager Roger Peckinpaugh (1919). Reporters were starting to wonder if DiMaggio might challenge the all-time record, then believed to be George Sisler’s forty-one game streak from 1922. (It would be a few weeks before someone turned up the actual record.) Contacted by the New York Daily News, Sisler said, “You can’t imagine the strain. The newspapers keep mentioning the streak. Your teammates continually bring it up. You try to forget, but it can’t be done. It’s in your head every time you step to the plate.” And he didn’t have to deal with live cut-ins from ESPN, plus he probably smoked cigarettes with tons of nicotine.

June 14, 1941: Game 27

The Yankees returned home to face future Hall of Famer Bob Feller and the first place Indians at the Stadium. Feller was working on a streak of his own; since a loss on May 9th, he had won eight straight decisions, bring his season’s record to an impressive 13-3. When DiMaggio came to bat in the third inning, he watched three straight balls before Feller finally had to come into the zone. Hitting away, DiMaggio slashed a drive into the right-center field gap for a double. Also of note, Tommy Henrich homered for the Yanks in the first inning, extending another string. The Yankees had hit homeruns in ten games in a row, a streak that some local papers were beginning to follow.

June 12, 1941: Game 26

In one of the Yankees’s few night games of 1941, DiMaggio stretched his streak to twenty-six games with a fourth-inning single against the Chicago White Sox. Later, with the game tied in the top of the tenth, he gave his team the winning run with a solo homerun. The Yankees held on for the 3-2 victory and inched closer to the first place Cleveland Indians.

June 10, 1941: Game 25

The Yankees won their fourth in a row on this afternoon at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, topping the White Sox by a score of 8-3. DiMaggio was able to extend his streak only through the benefit of a decision by the official scorer. He hit a hard shot at third baseman Dario Lodigiani in the seventh inning. Lodigiani was handcuffed by the ball and couldn’t make a play; the scorer saw it as a hit, and the streak lived another day. Baseball tradition says that no-hitters and perfect games often need a little help from a great defensive play or a questionable call from an umpire, and we don’t have to think back any farther than Johan Santana’s recent no-no for the Mets. This hit by DiMaggio wasn’t as controversial as Carlos Beltran’s foul ball on the chalk, but in today’s culture it might’ve raised a few eyebrows. Oh, well. Twenty-five straight for Joe D.

June 8, 1941: Games 23 & 24

The Yankees again took advantage of the St. Louis Browns, this time sweeping both games of the doubleheader by scores of 9-3 and 8-3. DiMaggio hammered the Brown hurlers in one of his more impressive performances of the season. He homered twice in the opener, then went deep again in the nightcap in addition to a double. He drove in a total of seven runs in the two games. What little kid wouldn’t want to be Joe DiMaggio when he grew up? Elsewhere, Ted Williams fell by the wayside in his efforts to keep pace with DiMaggio’s streak. In a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, Williams was hitless in both games, stopping his streak at twenty-three straight games.

June 7, 1941: Game 22

The St. Louis Browns, having recently replaced manager Fred Haney with Luke Sewell, continued their losing ways by giving up five runs in the ninth to lose to the Yankees, 11-7. DiMaggio had three singles on the day, easily keeping his string intact at twenty-two straight. In Chicago, meanwhile, Williams stayed a game ahead of DiMaggio by singling once in four at bats and stretching his streak to twenty-three games. DiMaggio’s streak, of course, was still a week from its midpoint; Teddy Ballgame’s would die the next day.

June 5, 1941: Game 21

Perhaps caught in a malaise in the aftermath of Lou Gehrig’s death and funeral, the Yankees dropped their third straight game, falling to Hal Newhouser and the Tigers, 5-4. DiMaggio tripled into the left field corner in the sixth, but that was it for him. His one for five day at the plate saw his average dip to .326, but during the streak he was hitting a bit better, .354 (29 for 82). Ted Williams, meanwhile, was keeping pace. He had now hit in twenty-two straight, and was hitting an even .500 (40 for 80!) during his streak, pushing his season number to a laughable .434.

June 3, 1941: Game 20

When they got off the train in Detroit the night before their series against the Tigers, the Yankees were greeted with the stunning news that Lou Gehrig had died earlier in the day. Several of the older players, including DiMaggio, who had played with Gehrig were concerned for his wife and considered skipping the game. DiMaggio decided to play, and his fourth-inning homerun was a small bright spot in a bleak day as the Yankees lost, 4-2, while mourning their former captain.

June 2, 1941: Game 19

The Yankees attempted to complete a sweep of their series against the Indians but were faced with the daunting task of hitting against one of the league’s hottest pitchers, Bob Feller. Coming into the game he hadn’t allowed a run in twenty-nine straight innings, and although the Yankees snapped that string in the second, Feller was still able to earn his eleventh win of the young season as the Indians came out on top, 7-5. DiMaggio had a single and a double on this day, and back in his hometown, the San Francisco Chronicle picked up on the streak for the first time. Soon enough, every paper in the country would be tracking DiMaggio’s progress.

June 1, 1941: Games 17 & 18

Playing their second doubleheader in three days, the Yankees continued their roadtrip by sweeping two games from the Cleveland Indians and moving to within a game and a half of the first place White Sox. DiMaggio had one single in each of the games to bring the streak to eighteen games. His hit in the second game came in his last at bat of the day. At this point, as a new paper each day seemed to pick up on the DiMaggio streak, he certainly must have been aware of what was at stake. He smashed a rocket that glanced off the glove of third baseman Ken Keltner. (The next time the Yankees came to Cleveland, DiMaggio would not be so lucky.) Elsewhere, Ted Williams was also continuing his torrid pace. He collected four hits in a doubleheader against the Tigers, raising his average to an obscene .430. His hitting streak was still intact a game beyond DiMaggio’s at nineteen straight, and he was even hotter than Joe D. Williams’s streak average was an even .500 (36 for 72) while DiMaggio was hitting a comparatively mild .362 (25 for 69).

May 30, 1941: Games 15 & 16

The Yankees travelled to Boston for a Memorial Day doubleheader, one of six twinbills played during DiMaggio’s streak, another notable difference between baseball then and now. A sell-out crowd of 34,500 crammed into Fenway Park as the Yanks and Sox split the pair. In the opener, things looked bleak for the Yankees and DiMaggio as they came to bat in the top of the ninth trailing 3-1. Still without a hit, DiMaggio came up in the final inning with a runner on first. He singled to keep the rally (and the streak) alive, and New York eventually scored three times to take the one-run lead that would give them a 4-3 victory. In the nightcap, Boston hammered the Yankees, beating them 13-0, but DiMaggio was awarded a hit on a fly ball lofted high into the wind and sun that often plagued Fenway’s right field. Boston’s Pete Fox tried valiantly to make the catch, but the ball fell untouched at his feet, and DiMaggio scampered into second base with a double.

Aside from the two hits, DiMaggio’s day was utterly forgettable. Normally one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, DiMaggio earned his nickname, the Yankee Clipper, with the effortless way in which he sailed across the outfield grass in pursuit of flyballs. On this day, however, he was charged with an error in the opening game and three more in the second, making this perhaps his worst day in the field. None of this, however, affected the streak.

May 29, 1941: Game 14

A darkened sky threatening rain all afternoon and a stifling ninety-seven degree heat combined to keep attendance at a mere 1,500 in Washington as the Senators and Yankees tied 2-2 in a rain-shortened five-inning game. DiMaggio had been battling illness for a few days, but he was lucky enough to single and score in the fourth inning, extending his streak to fourteen games. Rookie Johnny Sturm, however, waited until the top of the sixth to record his basehit, only to see it washed away when the rains came before the Senators could hit in the home half of the inning. By rule, the score reverted to the last completed inning, and everything that happened in the Yankee half of the sixth was wiped out, including Sturm’s streak. Crosetti also singled in the fourth to keep his streak going at eleven. Though still unaware of DiMaggio’s streak, the New York Times reported one interesting note from the game. DiMaggio struck out for only the third time all season. He had struck out twice in the same game on April 25th, then waited 113 at bats before doing so again on this afternoon.

May 28, 1941: Game 13

On a night when the Yankees and Washington Senators played the first ever night game in Washington’s Griffith Stadium, DiMaggio led his team to a 6-5 victory. Three interesting notes about the lights that night: One, Griffith Stadium was now one of only four American League parks to boast electric lights. Two, the lights were turned on for the first time by a Walter Johnson fastball. The retired Senator threw the ceremonial first pitch through an electric beam projected across home plate; his third attempt lit up the night. Three, Washington officials needed special permission to fly the flag after sundown for the playing of the national anthem.

Once the game was underway, the Yankees found themselves trailing 3-1 in the eighth inning as a hitless DiMaggio came to the plate. He tripled deep to right to extend his streak and trigger a five-run Pinstripe rally. In addition to DiMaggio, Johnny Sturm and Frank Crosetti also kept their streaks alive, and DiMaggio’s string was mentioned in the press for the first time in the New York World-Telegram: “Last night’s battle saw all three hitting streaks on the Yankees continued. DiMaggio hit in his thirteenth consecutive contest. Sturm in his eleventh and Crosetti in his tenth.” The fact that a player of DiMaggio’s stature could get almost two weeks into a hitting streak without being noticed underscores a major reason why this record will never be threatened. In this era of media saturation and round-the-clock sports highlights, nothing escapes the public’s unquenchable thirst for information. It isn’t uncommon to hear a television or radio announcer make mention of a three-game hitting streak, and any time a player gets a run up to twenty games, not even half way to DiMaggio, he becomes the lead story on SportsCenter. Even in 1941 DiMaggio endured scrutiny as an entire nation followed his exploits during the latter stages of his streak, but the media crush surrounding a player approaching that record today would be stifling. The physical accomplishment of fifty-six is amazing; the mental strength required to get there would be even more impressive. It’ll never happen.

May 27, 1941: Game 12

For the first time, Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees took the streak on the road as they headed into Washington for a three-game series against the Senators. The Senators were near the bottom of the American League standings as play began on this day, and the Yankees took advantage of their hosts, winning 10-8. DiMaggio led the way with his first big game of the streak, as he had four hits, including a 425-foot three-run homerun to left field. Johnny Sturm continued his own march with three hits, and shortstop Frank Crosetti also rapped out three hits, allowing both men to tack another game to their own hitting streaks. The press continued to follow Sturm’s ten-game streak, and they had now caught on to Crosetti’s nine-gamer, but there would be no notice of DiMaggio until after game thirteen.

May 25, 1941: Game 11

The Yankee winning streak came to an end on this afternoon at the hands of the Red Sox, 10-3. Once again, DiMaggio managed only a single, but the big story was Williams. He smashed three singles and a double, all four hits rifled between the first and second basemen, and raised his average to a league-leading .404. Though both men boasted eleven-game hitting streaks, Williams was clearly the hotter hitter. A quick trivia note: DiMaggio’s single came off veteran and future Hall of Famer Lefty Grove. Grove had also given up one of Babe Ruth’s record sixty homeruns in 1927, making him one of two pitchers to contribute to both historic accomplishments. Finally, young Johnny Sturm also managed to extend his streak, bring his total to nine.

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