Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Joltin' Joe DiMaggio and the 56-Game Hit Streak

Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio has always been an intriguing figure to me. From my early recollections of his being the spokesperson of Mr. Coffee and the Bowery Savings Bank to his marriage to Marylin Monroe to the rumors of his being standoffish to fans looking for autographs ($100 dollars or a steak dinner was rumored to be his line to autograph seekers) DiMaggio was always shrouded in mystery. So when I read that May 15th marked the 70th anniversary of the beginning of his still untouchable 56-game hit streak, I decided to look into how DiMaggio hit during the streak. (Image credit goes to James Fiorentino of JamesFiorentino.com. Check his site out for other beautiful sports images available for sale)

The streak lasted for a period of two months and two days from May 15, 1941 to July 16, 1941 and the Yankees played a total of seven doubleheaders during that span (May 30, June 1, June 8, June 29, July 1, July 6, July 13). Unlike today's day/night doubleheaders which provide a few hours of rest for players in between games, these games were played with a small break in between treating fans to two games for the price of one. In addition, travel during those days differed from today with traveling coming in the form of cross country trains and city to city buses. Keep in mind that St. Louis was the Westernmost city in the majors so train travel to or from New York City took some time. No five or six hours flights via first-class in those days or first-class accommodations either. So life for a ballplayer was a little harsher. Given those details, here is how DiMaggio's production during the streak breaks down.

DiMaggio went 91 for 223 for a batting average of .408. The 91 hits were made up of 53 singles, 15 doubles, 8 triples and 15 homeruns. DiMaggio drove in 55 runs and crossed home plate 50 times. He also drew 22 walks and struck out an amazing 5 times during the streak. His plate discipline is what I find truly amazing since DiMaggio struck out only 13 times during the entire 1941 season. Keep in mind that some current players will strike out 13 times in a month if not a few weeks.

For the 1941 season, DiMaggio hit .357 with 30 HRs and 125 RBI and 122 runs scored. In 541 at-bats, DiMaggio had 193 hits (43 2B/11 3B/30 HR) with 76 walks and the aforementioned 13 strikeouts. His OPS was 1.083 (.440 OBP%/.643 SLG%). DiMaggio led the Yankees to a 101-54 record winning the American League pennant and defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers in six games in the World Series. For his accomplishments, DiMaggio won the 1941 American League Most Valuable Player award over such stiff competition as Ted Williams who batted .406 for the season, as well as leading the league in runs, home runs, walks, on base and slugging percentages and Bob Feller who went 25-13 with 2 saves and a 3.15 ERA in 44 games (40 started) with 343 innings pitched with 260 strikeouts and 194 walks and 284 hits for a WHIP of 1.394.

When I hear about records that will stand the test of time, I have to agree that Joe DiMaggio's 56-game streak is going to be one of those that does stand up against time.

On a side note, I would like to thank the fine people over at BaseballReference.com for their invaluable work. Checking out statistics, box scores and details for games 70 years ago and later is made easier due to their continued efforts. Thank you very much.


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Joe DiMaggio's career statistics from BaseballReference.com
- Click Here to access Zell's Pinstripe Blog for an article named DiMaggio, Mr. Coffee and The Bowery Savings Bank dated July 3, 2010 for links to various commercials made by Joe DiMaggio for Mr. Coffee and Bowery Savings Bank.

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