Record Hitting Streak Ground to Halt at 56


Among the great records in baseball, none shines brighter than Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak of 1941 for the New York Yankees.

In almost 60 years since, no one has come closer than Pete Rose, who hit in 44 in a row in 1978. In fact, only seven players in this century--including DiMaggio, have had 35-game hit streaks.

DiMaggio's streak, which began May 15, 1941, with a single off White Sox pitcher Cotton Ed Smith, ended 58 years ago today, before 67,000 in Cleveland. The Cleveland pitchers were Al Smith and Jim Bagby Jr., who received major help from third baseman Ken Keltner.

Keltner made two backhanded stops of hard DiMaggio ground balls, going over the foul line on both, to throw him out. In the eighth, with the bases loaded, DiMaggio sent a double-play ground ball to shortstop Lou Boudreau.

In the streak, DiMaggio hit .408, with 15 home runs and 55 runs batted in. The Yankees were playing poorly when it began, but by Aug. 2 they were 44-8 over their last 52 games, had blown the American League race apart, and had won the pennant by 17 games.

Then the final tribute: In a season in which Ted Williams hit .406, DiMaggio won the MVP award.

Also on this date: In 1961, arguably baseball's greatest player, Ty Cobb, died at 74 in Atlanta. The year before, Cobb, whose career batting average was .366, was asked by a reporter what he would hit in the major leagues in 1960. "I'd hit .300," he said. "But you've got to remember, I'm 73." . . . In 1974, Dizzy Dean died at 63 in Reno. The one-time St. Louis Cardinal pitcher is still the National League's last 30-game winner (30-7 in 1934). As a broadcaster, he was once taken off the air when teachers protested his ungrammatical English. Dean's reaction: "A lot of people who ain't sayin' 'ain't' ain't eatin'." . . . In 1994, before 94,194 at the Rose Bowl, Brazil defeated Italy in a shootout, the first in championship game history, for a record fourth World Cup soccer title.

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