According to the Biography Channel, Joe DiMaggio was born on November 25, 1914. He played his entire career for the New York Yankees, from 1936 to 1951. He is famous for a myriad of things – including marrying Marilyn Monroe and helping the Yankees win 9 World Series championships – but nothing gained him as much fame as his 56 game hitting streak.
The Hitting Streak
Per ESPN, DiMaggio’s hitting streak lasted from May 15, 1941 to July 17, 1941. Over these 56 games, DiMaggio didn’t just get lucky with a single here and a double there; rather, he dominated the game. As reported by Newsday, DiMaggio maintained a batting average of .408 during the streak, going 91 for 223, hitting 15 home runs, and amassing 55 RBIs.
All of his hits were solid – he never bunted for a hit – and he faced four future Hall of Fame pitchers: Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, Ted Lyons, and Hal Newhouser (whom he faced twice).
When the streak finally ended, in game 57, DiMaggio was robbed of two hits by stellar defensive plays.
Living up to a Legend
The past two decades saw some of baseball’s longstanding records fall. This included Roger Maris’s record of home runs in a season and Hank Aaron’s record of all-time home runs. Though these records were broken by players widely accused of steroid use, they were still broken, nonetheless.
DiMaggio’s streak, however, hasn’t seen any competition; no one has so much as flirted with it. According to ESPN, only three players in the modern era have even gotten within three weeks of DiMaggio’s streak. These players included Pete Rose who had a hitting streak of 44 games in 1978 (which is the National League record in modern day), Paul Molitor who had a hitting streak of 39 games in 1987, and Jimmy Rollins who had a hitting streak of 38 in 2006.
Another fact that attests to the staying power of DiMaggio’s record is the fact that no hitter since 1900 has gotten a hit in 55 out of 56 games. There have been players, however, who have gotten nearly as hot. In 2007, Derek Jeter hit in 54 of 56 games and Tommy Holmes, George Brett, Benito Santiago, Johnny Damon, and Ichiro Suzuki have hit in 53 of 56 games. Suzuki did it twice.
Still, a streak of this caliber has been accomplished in other leagues. In the minor leagues, two players have had hitting streaks over 56 games. Joe Wilhoit hit for 69 straight games in 1919 and Joe DiMaggio (in a nod to foreshadowing) hit for 61 straight games in 1933. Collegiately, Damian Constantino had a hitting streak of 60 in 2003, while Robin Ventura had one of 58 in 1987.
Is it Unbreakable?
DiMaggio’s record has lasted for more than 70 years without a hint of cracking and it’s likely that it never will be broken. One reason for this is the pressure that would surround any player who ever got close to the streak; as soon as someone reaches a hitting streak of 30 or so games, the media’s spotlight begins shining. Sometimes, it shines just a bit too brightly.
Another reason the streak may never be broken is that DiMaggio simply was something special: his .324 lifetime batting average, per USA Today Sports, is the 41st highest in history.
Still, anything is possible: Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games played was once widely believed unbreakable until Cal Ripken broke it in 1995. So, you just never know.
Bishop Clayton is a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minnesota who concentrates on baseball history, sports records, sports memorabilia, sports figurines and bobble heads (such as those from custombobbleheads.com), exercise science and other kindred subjects.
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