NEW YORK, July 2, 1941 -- Leave it to Joe DiMaggio to make baseball history in the ultimate fashion.The Yankees center fielder, in the midst of a season for the ages, might have made the fans at Yankee Stadium and the baseball-crazed country wait until the fifth inning of Wednesday's
NEW YORK, July 2, 1941 -- Leave it to Joe DiMaggio to make baseball history in the ultimate fashion.
The Yankees center fielder, in the midst of a season for the ages, might have made the fans at Yankee Stadium and the baseball-crazed country wait until the fifth inning of Wednesday's 8 to 4 victory over the Boston Red Sox, but he delivered an incredible Major League record with one powerful swing.
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DiMaggio's home run off Red Sox right-hander Dick Newsome, into the lower left field stands, gave him hits in 45 consecutive games. With that clout, his 18th round-tripper of the season, DiMaggio moved past Wee Willie Keeler's previous big league mark of 44 and into new, uncharted territory.
For six and a half weeks, since an innocent run-scoring single in the first inning of an otherwise dreary 13-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on this very ballfield on May 15, a Yankees boxscore has included at least one hit off the blazing bat of DiMaggio.
Now DiMaggio has no one to chase except his own limitations, if there are any. Every game from this point on will provide the right-handed slugger a chance to make his mark even more difficult to equal as the games and the years go on.
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The weekday crowd of 8,682 was held in painstaking suspense for a little while thanks to some uncanny defensive work by Boston, but the fans would not go unrewarded for their patience.
DiMaggio hit a sharp line drive to right field in his first at-bat in the first inning, and Boston outfielder Stan Spence slightly misjudged the ball but leapt at the last second to make the catch. In the third inning, DiMaggio grounded hard down the third base line, but Boston's Jim Tabor made a deft back-handed stop and beat DiMaggio by a step at first with a crisp throw.
DiMaggio didn't get another chance to hit until the fifth inning, but he made the most of it. The at-bat started with Newsome throwing two straight balls, much to the chagrin of the spectators, who booed the pitcher. DiMaggio fouled off Newsome's third offering, but did not miss the fourth.
DiMaggio swung hard and launched a fly ball that soared high over Ted Williams' head and carried into the lower left field stands, some 400 feet from home plate. It was DiMaggio's 18th home run of the season, broke Keeler's record and keyed a six-run inning that effectively put the game away. The normally stoic center fielder smiled as he trotted around the bases and was congratulated as he stepped into a dugout full of teammates and coaches who knew well of the history that been made.
DiMaggio has now hit in 45 consecutive games, and in case anyone forgot to pay attention to the American League standings because of the magnitude of the streak, the Yankees finished off a three-game sweep of Boston, have won six games in a row, and are now in first place in the AL over Cleveland by three games.
As the Yankees hoisted DiMaggio on their backs in victory and slapped him on the back until he couldn't stand it anymore, their sights had to be set on greater things to come in what has already been a monumental 1941 season.
On May 15, 1941, Joe DiMaggio began his legendary 56-game hitting streak. In celebration of the 75th anniversary of that seemingly unbreakable record, we'll be doing a day-by-day account of the momentous feat.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.