Tuesday, July 16, 2013

DiMaggio Extends Hit Streak To 56 Games

On July 16, 1941, Hall of Famer, Martinez Native and New York Yankees slugger Joe DiMaggio gets three base hits in a game against the Cleveland Indians.

The three hits extended his consecutive-games-with-a-hit streak to 56 games, a full dozen past the previous record held by "Wee" Willie Keeler.

Just one day later, in a rematch against those same Indians, the New York Yankees won, 4-3 -- but DiMaggio went 0-3 thanks to a pair of great defensive plays by Indians third baseman Ken Keltner.
The Yankees won 41 games, lost 13, and tied twice during Joe's streak, and they would later run away with the American League pennant. But the streak was over.

At 56 games, DiMaggio had carried the hit record to a seemingly insurmountable mark; to this day, it remains the most ever in Major League Baseball history. Immediately following that game, DiMaggio got a hit in 16 straight games, meaning that he hit safely in 72 of 73 games and had safely reached base in all of them.

A then-record nighttime crowd of 67,468 had come out to watch him extend it to 57. Had he done it, the Heinz 57 Company would have given him a $10,000 endorsement.

The “Yankee Clipper”, DiMaggio’s, 56-game streak became one of the most idolized numbers in baseball and joined Babe Ruth's home run records, and later Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game, as the most hallowed records in all of sports.

Whenever any player recorded a hit streak in the mid-thirties, still twenty short of the record, that player would receive an immense amount of coverage from the media. That's how enormous DiMaggio’s record was.

DiMaggio would have had a much more storied career if it were not the case that he enlisted in the United States Air Force in February of 1943. DiMaggio was stationed at Santa Ana, California, Hawaii, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a physical education instructor. He was released on medical discharge in September 1945, due to chronic stomach ulcers.

Other than now being paid $21 a month, DiMaggio's service was as comfortable as a soldier's life could be. He spent most of his career playing for base teams and in exhibition games against fellow Major Leaguers and minor league players, and superiors gave him special privileges due to his prewar fame.

DiMaggio ate so well from an athlete-only diet that he gained 10 pounds, and while in Hawaii he and other players mostly tanned on the beach and drank. Embarrassed by his lifestyle, DiMaggio demanded combat duty in 1943, but was turned down.

DiMaggio would return to baseball in 1946 after three years in service.

However, even with time in the Air Force during the prime of his career DiMaggio ended his career as one of the most loved Yankees, as he was a nine-time World Series Champion, a three-time MVP and of course he holds the record for consecutive game hit-streak with 56 games. DiMaggio’s career stats are not to be looked over either; in his 13-year career he was an All-Star every year, including seven consecutive appearances from 1936-1942, and then six more consecutive appearances from 1946-1951. He finished his career with a .325 batting average, 2,214 hits, 389 doubles, 131 triples, 361 home runs, 790 walks 1,537 RBIs, 1,390 run and a .398 on base percentage.

DiMaggio led the league in batting average twice in 1939 and 1940. In 1939 he won his first MVP award. DiMaggio also led the league in home runs twice in 1937 and 1948, both times he was runner up for the MVP, in 1937 he also led the league in runs scored. In 1941 and 1948 he led the league in RBIs, in 1941 he won the second of his three MVP awards.

DiMaggio was in the top 10 in MVP voting in 10 of his 13 years of action, and in the top three six times.

In 1955 he was inducted into Cooperstown Major League Baseball Hall of Fame with 88.84 percent of the vote on third ballot in which he was named.