DiMaggio ties MLB record in doubleheader

July 1st, 2016
New York Times Co.

NEW YORK, July 1, 1941 -- The biggest crowd of the year at Yankee Stadium turned up to see it. The fans packing the stands braved the stifling heat and humidity in the South Bronx to witness history.

Once again, they did not leave disappointed. Once again, as he has for the last 44 games, Joe DiMaggio would not let them go home without sharing a slice of baseball history.

Joe DiMaggio's run to 56: Rewriting the record

Yes, the famous streak that has captivated a nation is alive and well, and it is at a Major League-record-tying 44 games. The great Yankees center fielder hit safely in both games of a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon, of which New York won both games from the Boston Red Sox, by scores of 7 to 2 and 9 to 2.

DiMaggio needs only one hit in Wednesday's game against Boston to seize the record for himself and see how far he alone can take it.

But when the stands cleared late Tuesday after 53,832 persons watched more than four and a half hours of baseball, the only talk was of the grand feat that DiMaggio had accomplished after getting at least one hit in six weeks' worth of games.

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It overshadowed all, such as the good news in New York that the Yankees have won five games in a row, have their best record of the season at 44 wins and 26 losses, and are 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Cleveland in the AL standings.

It also limited talk of the incredible year that Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams is having at the plate. Williams left the stadium with a season's batting average of .402.

As the first game began, all eyes were on DiMaggio, who had broken George Sisler's AL-record 41-game hitting streak in the previous day's doubleheader in Washington and was poised to increase his total to 43 to get within one game of Willie Keeler's 44-year-old mark.

DiMaggio didn't reward his onlookers right away, popping out foul of first base in the first inning and grounding out to third base in the third.

But the suspense came to an end in the fifth inning with the Yankees already enjoying a 4 to 0 lead and having knocked Boston pitcher Mickey Harris out of the game.

DiMaggio led off the fifth against Boston pitcher Mike Ryba and sent a slow ground ball to Red Sox third baseman Jim Tabor. By the time Tabor fielded the ball and threw to first base, DiMaggio had beat out the throw. The play was ruled a base hit and DiMaggio had run his formidable streak to 43 games.

As if to rule out any possible controversy, DiMaggio then lined a clean single to Williams in left field in the sixth inning, scoring a run to give the Yankees a 6 to 2 lead they wouldn't give up.

The second game, of course, brought the nerves of DiMaggio finally coming face to face with Keeler's mark. A hit would tie the Major League record of 44 straight games with a hit, and the Yankee slugger's first adversary was Red Sox pitcher Jack Wilson. But before any suspense could build, DiMaggio took care of history.

With two outs in the bottom of the first inning and Red Rolfe on second base, DiMaggio ripped a single to center field, scoring New York's first run in a three-run inning that would essentially win it the game right away.

DiMaggio had done it, tying Keeler's Major League record by hitting in 44 consecutive games, and when the game was called by umpire Eddie Rommel because of rain and darkness after the fifth inning, it was official.

One streak came to an end Tuesday, incidentally. The Yankees did not hit a home run, ending their Major League record of 25 consecutive games with at least one roundtripper, a string that began on May 31 and included 40 homers.

But nobody was talking about that streak. There is another one to discuss, and it's one game away from a true baseball legend.

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.