WASHINGTON, June 29, 1941 -- Joe DiMaggio sidled up cozily next to George Sisler on the same page of baseball's record book. Then he waved him goodbye and continued to use that potent bat to carve his own path toward Wee Willie Keeler, and perhaps immortality.Sunday's doubleheader between the Yankees
WASHINGTON, June 29, 1941 -- Joe DiMaggio sidled up cozily next to George Sisler on the same page of baseball's record book. Then he waved him goodbye and continued to use that potent bat to carve his own path toward Wee Willie Keeler, and perhaps immortality.
Sunday's doubleheader between the Yankees and Senators at Griffith Stadium was hot, humid and heavily anticipated. And by the time New York emerged from the long day of baseball close to triple-digit temperature, the club had won both games and DiMaggio had continued his astonishing -- and now American League-record -- hitting streak, pushing it to 42 games.
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The Yankees beat the lowly Senators by scores of 9 to 4 in the first game and 7 to 5 in the second, but the results of Sunday's games were not important to the boisterous assembled crowd of more than 30,000 when compared with the drama of whether DiMaggio would hit safely in each game.
The center fielder needed a hit in the first game of the twin bill to equal Sisler's AL-record streak of 41 games, set in 1922 while a member of the St. Louis Browns, and another in the second game to stand by himself in the annals of the AL while climbing to within two games of the Major League mark of 44, set by Keeler in 1897 while with the Baltimore Orioles.
The crowd knew it and knew it well, since the streak has been the main topic of the baseball world for weeks now, adorning the front pages of newspapers and leading off the news of the day on radio stations around the country.
On Sunday, the streak had reached a pinnacle of excitement. After weeks of hearing Sisler's name and wondering if DiMaggio could eventually become his match, the Yanks' center fielder and best hitter had the chance.
DiMaggio started the first game off slowly, flying out to center field to lead off the second inning and popping out foul of third base in the fourth. The Yankees had taken a 3 to 0 lead by the time DiMaggio arrived at the plate for his third at-bat, leading off the sixth inning against Senators knuckleballer Dutch Leonard.
DiMaggio ran Leonard to a count of 1 and 1 before swinging at a fastball and sending it cleanly into left-center field for a double. The crowd roared as camera operators scrambled to capture the event for motion pictures. DiMaggio had tied Sisler's AL record, and after he scored on a passed ball, batter Joe Gordon shook his hand at the plate while the rest of the Yanks emerged from the dugout to congratulate him.
But neither the day nor the DiMaggio drama was done.
In the second game, DiMaggio lofted a sacrifice fly to right field in the first inning against Senators pitcher Sid Hudson to give New York an early 2 to 0 lead. In his second at-bat, which came in the third inning, DiMaggio lined out to shortstop Cecil Travis. Red Anderson came in to pitch for Washington and faced DiMaggio in his next plate appearance in the fifth inning, which resulted in a flyout to shallow center.
By the time DiMaggio made it to the batter's box for his fourth at-bat of Sunday's second game, the Yankees had a 6 to 4 lead they wouldn't relinquish, but the moment all had been waiting for had not yet come to pass.
Anderson threw a high-and-inside fastball with his first pitch, and DiMaggio backed out of the way. On the 1 and 0 count, Anderson threw another fastball, but this one was over the plate, and DiMaggio quickly and decisively lined the ball into left field for the long-awaited record-breaking hit. Both teams applauded as the game stopped for a few minutes in recognition that DiMaggio alone held the AL record for consecutive games with at least one hit at 42.
DiMaggio, who does not show much emotion on the baseball diamond, smiled briefly and touched his cap to show the crowd that he appreciated its admiration.
The Yanks have a day off on Monday, but will return to the Bronx on Tuesday, the first day of July, for a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox. If DiMaggio hits safely in both of those games, he will enter Wednesday with a share of Keeler's Major League mark of 44.
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.