Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Joe DiMaggio's Streak: 70 Years Later

On May 15, 1941, Joe DiMaggio singled off Edgar Smith of the Chicago White Sox. That was his lone hit of that day as the White Sox demolished the New York Yankees 13-1 in front of a tiny crowd at Yankee Stadium. Only 9,040 fans attended, but little did they realize, they witnessed history. This was the beginning of DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.

Now, 70 years later, DiMaggio's streak remains untouched.

Throughout the years, players managed to piece together significant hitting streaks, but only one player ever came close to matching DiMaggio's feat. In 1978, Pete Rose, then a member of the Cincinnati Reds, strung together a 44-game hitting streak. Rose's consecutive game streak still stands as the modern National League record, but it fell 12 games short of DiMaggio's American League and Major League Baseball record. Willie Keeler had a 44-game streak in 1897 for the old Baltimore Orioles of the National League. If you count the final game of Keeler's 1896 season, that streak reaches 45. Earlier this season, Andre Either of the Los Angeles Dodgers reached 30 games before his streak was broken.

During DiMaggio's streak, he hit .408 with 91 hits in 223 official at-bats. Of those 91 hits, 16 were doubles, four were triples, and he hit 15 home runs. He also picked up 55 runs batted in. These were not simply cheap hits either. Over the course of the 56 games, he faced four eventual Hall of Fame pitchers. He faced Lefty Grove of the Boston Red Sox, Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians twice, Hal Newhouser of the Detroit Tigers twice, and Ted Lyons of the Chicago White Sox.

On July 17, 1941, the Cleveland Indians ended DiMaggio's streak at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. Before a crowd of 67,468 fans, pitchers Al Smith and Jim Bagby limited DiMaggio to 0-3 for the day, with one walk. The Yankees beat the Indians 4-3.

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