On June 14 in New York, the Yanks halted first-place Cleveland's winning streak at six with a 4-1 win over Bob Feller. DiMaggio ran his streak to 27 and knocked in the winning run in the second. Henrich singled, and with the count 3-0, McCarthy gave DiMaggio the green light against Feller. DiMaggio always hit Feller well and did so again, stroking a double. When the Yankees edged Cleveland 3-2 the next day, DiMaggio's third-inning home run to the upper tier of the left-field balcony at Yankee Stadium was the difference. The Yanks beat Cleveland for the third straight time on June 16, 6-4, as DiMaggio contributed a double and ran his streak to 29, tying the Yankees' team record set by Roger Peckinpaugh in 1919 and Earle Combs in 1931.
DiMaggio broke the record the next day against Chicago, the same team he had started the streak against a month before. DiMaggio was hitless when he came to bat in the seventh, and grounded to White Sox shortstop Luke Appling. The ball took a bad hop and bounced off AppUng's shoulder. Official scorekeeper Dan Daniel signaled a hit, and the record was DiMaggio's. He narrowly missed winning the game and collecting another hit in the ninth when Chicago outfielder Taft Wright snagged his drive over the low fence in left field. As it was, the White Sox halted the Yankee win streak with an 8-7 win on Myril Hoag's ninth-inning single. On the same day, Phil Rizzuto had replaced Frank Crosetti in the starting lineup.
The Yankees lost to Chicago the following day, 3-2, as DiMaggio returned Appling's favor and overran Appling's second-inning fly ball, leading to a Chicago run. But Appling also helped DiMaggio by failing to pick up his hard ground ball, which Daniel again scored as a hit, to run DiMaggio's skein to 31. Another streak continued as Charlie Keller homered for New York, marking the 14th game in a row a Yankee had hit a home run.
Daniel's role in extending the streak in games 30 and 31 has since been the subject of much criticism. While it is true that Daniel was DiMaggio's friend and that both hits could have gone either way, had DiMaggio not run his streak to the eventual 56 games, Daniel's calls would never have been questioned. Only DiMaggio's later accomplishments brought the calls under scrutiny.
The Yankees got back on track against the White Sox on June 19 with a 7-2 win. DiMaggio went 3 for 3, including a home run. The press now set sight on DiMaggio's pursuit of George Sisler's major-league-record 41-game hitting streak.
On June 20, DiMaggio got hits in his first four at bats as the Yankees played host to Detroit, boosting his average to .354 with his seventh consecutive safety. The Yanks bombed the Tigers, 14-4. In the second game of the series, DiMaggio's first-inning single knocked in a run and helped New York beat Detroit, 7-3, but the big hit was Phil Rizzuto's seventh-inning home run, only the second of his career, which tied a major-league record as it marked the 19th consecutive game in which a Yankee had hit a home run.
DiMaggio continued his streak and broke the record the next day with a sixth-inning home run, his 15th, then helped win the game with a ninth-inning double as the Yankees scored twice to win, 5-4.
As DiMaggio approached Sisler's mark, his streak took on the character that has since dominated virtually every account of DiMaggio's pursuit. Only in its last weeks did the streak become something of an American obsession, for now DiMaggio was doing something wholly remarkable, testing the Fates, pushing the envelope of belief. Conversations around the country started with the question "Did he get one today?", and only now did the streak become the occasional topic of radio broadcasts and sandlot speculation. Behind each question was the knowledge that DiMaggio was destined to fail eventually. But to discover that fate had been put off for one more day made all things, for a moment anyway, seem possible.
The focus on DiMaggio increased in intensity. Soon, his every appearance was promoted like a prizefight. In a few weeks a popular song, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio," was recorded by bandleader Les Brown and played on the radio.
From DiMaggio: An Illustrated Life by Dick Johnson and Glenn Stout.
text Copyright © 1995 by Glenn Stout. Reprinted with permission.