DiMaggio Ties Keeler
NEW YORK – This was no ordinary mid-week doubleheader in 1941 for Joe McCarthy’s boys. Certainly, the fact that the Boston Red Sox were in town had something to do with the 52,832 attendance clip. However, the turnstiles were clicking at an alarming rate not to see the Yanks gain ground over the second place Indians, who were trailing the Yankees by 2 games, but to see the regal Yankee centerfielder, Joe DiMaggio, vie for baseball history. Having hit safely in 42 consecutive games, these July contests would be the real test of the young Italian American’s might. George Sisler’s hallowed mark of 41 was tied and broken during a doubleheader in late June, but the sportswriters had recently dug up the new magic number of 44 consecutive games as the milestone to surpass, a feat that Wee Willie Keeler achieved before the modern era in 1897, “hitting them where they ain’t.”
The multitudes crowded into the stadium on a 95 degree hazy afternoon, and were blessed with two Yankee wins, as well as the tying of Keeler’s great record. After a hit in the fifth inning of the first contest, which saw the Yanks triumph 7-2, it did not take DiMaggio long to settle the account in the second game.
Pictured is Joltin’ Joe’s first effort against hefty Boston right-hander Jack Wilson in the latter part of the double billing. The top of the inning saw a leadoff double by Red Rolfe; Johnny Sturm grounded out, driving the runner to third; and after, Tommy Henrich fanned for the second out. Using a borrowed bat to replace the one that was stolen in between the two games of the late June doubleheader with the Senators, DiMaggio would line a 1-0 inside fastball over Joe Cronin’s head at short, and into left centerfield for a clean single. With Rolfe scoring and DiMaggio tying Keeler, a loud standing ovation permeated the stadium. The sweltering heat and haze cast upon the field kept up for the rest of the abbreviated contest, which would last only an hour and five minutes – five innings – because of an oncoming heavy rainstorm; however, DiMaggio’s shot officially counted towards the record, as well as the 9-2 Yankee win. Also shown in the Boston road-grays are first baseman Lou Finney, right fielder Stan Spence, second basemen Bobby Doerr, centerfielder Dom DiMaggio, catcher Johnny Peacock, and home plate umpire Joe Rue.
The next day, Joe would hit a home run over the head of Boston leftfielder Ted Williams, breaking Keeler’s cherished mark. He would continue adding to his record, as well as captivating the nation, with each passing game. He wouldn’t stop until two weeks later in Cleveland at an incredible 56 consecutive games – mostly at the hands of Al Smith, Jim Bagby and Ken Keltner. During his amazing run, DiMaggio batted .408, hit 15 homeruns, batted in 55 runs, struck out only 5 times, and all but clinched a World Series birth for the Yanks.