An Illustrated Life
by Dick Johnson and Glenn Stout
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The streak was at 45 games, and in his first head-to-head matchup with Ted Williams in a series that meant anything, DiMaggio retained title over the young star, going 4 for 12, knocking in four runs, scoring three times, and leading his team to a sweep. Williams went 3 for 7, but with only two runs scored, no RBI, and no extra-base hits in the three Red Sox losses. After the game, even Williams seemed to admit he was not yet at DiMaggio's level. He marveled at the Yankee star, saying, "I really wish I could hit like that guy Joe DiMaggio."
DiMaggio was now in uncharted territory, on his way to a place where no other major league player, in any era, under any conditions, had gone before. Yet, no one was more prepared than he for the drama of the next several weeks, since only DiMaggio had hit in so many games and knew what it was like trying to extend such a record.
Now the press began to recognize that DiMaggio was approaching his own personal record of hitting in 61 consecutive games, a magical number that threatened to supplant, by one, the mystical numerology of Babe Ruth's home-run record of 60. Oddly, DiMaggio's earlier hit skein received only cursory mention through most of his current streak. While it had been big news upon DiMaggio's arrival in New York six years earlier, his subsequent accomplishments had pushed it into the deeper recesses of memory. Few observers bothered to note that DiMaggio had been through all this before. He was in competition only with himself.
After an off day, the Yankees and Washington were rained out twice, giving DiMaggio a chance to rest. Now the pressure of the streak really took hold, and over the next two weeks much occurred that ended up part of the DiMaggio legend.
The Yankees played host to Philadelphia for three games before the All-Star break, and DiMaggio was on fire. He had reason to be. His bat had been returned.
After the theft DiMaggio had put the word out that he wanted it back. The thief apparently bragged of his take to his buddies in Newark, and before long a friend of DiMaggio's located the bat. A small ransom was paid. A courier delivered the bat to DiMaggio before the game on July 5, and he used it to homer on the first pitch he saw as the Yankees won 10-5.
In a doubleheader on July 6, as the Yankees honored Lou Gehrig and unveiled his monument in left-center field, DiMaggio upped the streak to 48 games. He went a combined 6 for 9, including a double and triple, and knocked in three runs as the Yankees won their eighth and ninth games in a row, 8-4 and 3-1.
From DiMaggio: An Illustrated Life by Dick Johnson and Glenn Stout.
text Copyright © 1995 by Glenn Stout. Reprinted with permission.