1941: Joe DiMaggio's Hitting Streak: Games 1-11
Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio
Game 0 - Wednesday, May 14

On Wednesday, May 14, 1941, the New York Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians 4-1 before a crowd of 10,406 at Yankee Stadium. (Since the Yankees would not install lights until after World War II, they played all home games in the daytime.)

The loss, the Yanks' fourth in a row, dropped them to 14-14, 5.5 games behind the Indians.
  • CF Joe DiMaggio went 0-for-3 with a W against Mel Harder to drop his average to .306.
  • Joe's younger brother, Dom, CF for the 2nd place Boston Red Sox, was hitting 74 points higher in his second season in the AL.
  • The Red Sox 22-year-old LF Ted Williams, still battling an ankle injury he suffered in spring training, went 0-for-5 to drop his average to .339.

It was the last time the Yankees' DiMaggio would go hitless in a game for two months.

Dom DiMaggio 1941
Phil Rizzuto 1941
Phil Rizzuto
Game 1 - Thursday, May 15

9,040 fans turned out to see the Yankees start a series with the Chicago White Sox.

  • The visitors pounded Joe McCarthy's club 13-1, extending the losing streak to five. New York was now one game under .500.
  • The wire report of the game called it "one of the most humiliating defeats the Yanks have suffered in years. They did everything wrong." It was hard to believe this was the club that won four consecutive pennants from 1936-39.
  • In the first inning, Joe DiMaggio lined a hard single into LCF for his only hit of the game in 4 AB. Rookie SS Phil Rizzuto scored from second for NY's lone run off LHP Edgar Smith.
  • At Fenway Park that afternoon, Ted Williams went 1-for-3 with 2 W in a 6-4 loss to Cleveland. Indian ace Bob Feller pitched a scoreless ninth for what today is called a save.
  • Cleveland's triumph extended their lead over the Yanks to 6.5.

Born on that date: Singer/actress Lainie Kazan

Ted Williams 1941
Ted Williams

Joe Gordon 1941
Joe Gordon
Game 2 - Friday, May 16

Manager McCarthy shook up the Yankee lineup, benching the "$150,000 Kansas City kids," Rizzuto and Gerry Priddy. (KC was a Yankees farm club.)

  • Veterans Frank Crosetti and Joe Gordon took over SS and 2B respectively. Gordon cracked a 400' triple to celebrate his return to the lineup.
  • DiMaggio clouted a long HR over the Yankee bullpen into the LF bleachers. Only the Tigers Hank Greenberg had ever hit a ball into that area.
  • Charlie Keller smacked a fly that landed inside the park 440' from home plate, allowing King Kong to race around the bases.
  • Still, New York trailed 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth. But the Yankee CF hit a long triple to start a two-run rally against LHP Thornton Lee to break the five game losing streak.

In Boston, Cleveland smacked the Red Sox 9-3 as Ted Williams went 1-for-4 to make his average .333.

Major event that day: Last German air strike on Great Britain

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Thornton Lee White Sox
Thornton Lee
Game 3 - Saturday, May 17

10,272 trudged into Yankee Stadium to watch the 15-15 Yanks face the White Sox.

  • A morning rain cancelled batting practice and delayed the start of the game by 10 minutes.
  • Joe DiMaggio singled in the second inning and drew a base on balls later in a 1-for-3 afternoon. Twice Joe left two men on, grounding out once and popping out in the end the 8th.
  • Johnny Rigney, Chicago's tall RHP, limited the Yanks to five hits to outduel Spud Chandler 3-2.

A crowd of 20,000 at Fenway Park watched the Indians outslug the Red Sox 12-9 to drop the fifth-place Yankees 7.5 games behind.

  • Bob Feller garnered his 7th victory of the young season despite allowing 10 hits and 6 runs in 6 innings.
  • Ted Williams smacked two doubles and a single in five ABs to raise his average to .353.
Game 4 - Sunday, May 18

President Franklin Roosevelt had proclaimed May 18 I Am An American Day in the face of the increasingly dire war news from Europe. A massive throng estimated at 750,000 assembled on the Mall in Central Park.

  • A crowd of 30,109 gathered a little further NE in the Bronx to welcome the St. Louis Browns, who occupied their usual spot at the bottom of the AL.
  • The Yankees pounded the Browns 12-2. Lefty Gomez scattered six hits to even his record at 3-3.
  • DiMaggio had a perfect game at the plate, two singles , a double, and a walk along with reaching first on C interference. He had an RBI and scored 3 R. However, Joe didn't hit any of the balls really hard, the double being a bloop.
  • The first two hits came off Bob Harris while Johnny Niggeling surrendered the third.

In Boston, the Red Sox started a series with Detroit.

  • The second-place Tigers won 6-5 in 11 innings.
  • Ted Williams's 1-for-4 dropped his average to .347.

Born that day: Actress Diane McBain

Lefty Gomez
Lefty Gomez

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Denny Galehouse, Browns
Denny Galehouse
Game 5 - Monday, May 19, 1941

Denny Galehouse twirled a four-hitter for the Browns to beat the stumbling Yankees 5-1 at the House That Ruth Built.

  • DiMaggio had one of the hits, a double, in three AB with a walk.
  • His average after 33 games rose slightly to .328.

In Boston, Detroit handed the Red Sox their fifth straight loss, 4-2. Ted Williams walloped a HR in four AB.

Born that day: Labor leader Jimmy Hoffa; writer/director Nora Ephron
Major event: The Italian army surrendered in Ethiopia.

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Game 6 - Tuesday, May 20, 1941

The Yankees won the rubber game of the three-game series with the Browns in a slugfest, 10-9.

  • DiMaggio didn't add much to the offense, getting a single in five AB. He drove in a run and scored one. Elden Auker, a submarining RHP who had been a top starter on the 1934-5 Detroit World Series teams, yielded the safety.
  • The Yankees evened their record at 17-17, gaining a game on the league-leading Indians. NY was now 5.5 behind the Tribe.

Further north, the Red Sox defeated the Tigers 4-2.

  • Ted Williams smacked a single in three official trips to the plate and had a walk. Ted was hitting .342.
  • The Red Sox stayed tied with the Yanks for fourth place.

In Washington, Taft Wright of the Chicago White Sox set an AL record with RBIs in 13 straight games. His streak would end the next day in Philadelphia.

Born on that day: Bryan Kenner, New Orleans educator
Major event: Germany invaded Crete.

Elden Auker, St. Louis Browns
Elden Auker

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Schoolboy Rowe, Detroit Tigers
Schoolboy Rowe

Red Rolfe, New York Yankees

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Game 7 - Wednesday, May 21, 1941

The defending AL champions, the Detroit Tigers, took the train down from Boston to start a two-game series at Yankee Stadium. Their chances of repeating had been dealt a severe blow when Hank Greenberg became the first "big-name" ballplayer drafted into the service after the game of May 6.

  • DiMaggio drove in a run in the first inning with a fly out, which in those days was not scored as a sacrifice fly. He later got a single off Tiger starter Schoolboy Rowe.
  • Joe got another harmless single off Al Benton, who replaced Rowe in the seventh.

The Tigers took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

  • Johnny Sturm, one of the few 1B to bat leadoff, and 3B Red Rolfe both singled. RF Tommy Henrich then doubled them home to tie the game.
  • With the winning run on second, DiMaggio strode to the plate. Neither he nor anyone in the pressbox or stands expected the Tigers to pitch to him. Yet Manager Del Baker ordered Benton to do just that.
  • The strategy paid off as DiMaggio dribbed a roller to 3B Eric McNair, who threw him out while Henrich held second. At this point, Joe probably felt that he wasn't earning his $37,500 salary, which was triple the major league average.
  • Baker further astounded the spectators by ordering Benton to walk Charlie Keller. This strategy worked also as Henrich died on second to send the game to extra innings.

In the tenth, Rolfe's triple drove home Sturm to secure the victory 5-4.

  • The three hitters ahead of DiMaggio in the lineup combined for 10 hits, 5 runs scored, and 4 RBI.
  • The Yankees moved to 18-17. No one knew it at the team, but they would stay above .500 the rest of the season.

In Boston, the Red Sox scored two in the bottom of the eighth to beat the St. Louis Browns 8-6.

  • Ted Williams had a great day, 4-for-5 including a double.
  • His average jumped to .369.

Born that day: Ronald Isley, one of the singing brothers
Major event: The first American ship was sunk by German U-boats.

Game 8 - Thursday, May 22, 1941

The Yankees concluded their two-game Detroit series at Yankee Stadium with a 6-5 victory.

  • The Tiger dugout rode DiMaggio every time he came to bat. "You big Guinea!" "Hey Spaghetti Bender!" Taunts like this were common in that era and bothered very few players - certainly not Joe, who didn't even glance in his tormentors' direction.
  • In four AB, the Yankee CF contributed a seventh-inning single off Archie McKain, who relieved starter Bobo Newsome in the sixth. Joe earlier had driven in his 27th run of the season.

At Fenway, the Browns gained a split of their two-game set with the Red Sox, 4-1.

  • Ted Williams had two singles in four trips to raise his average to .375.
  • After the game, both teams headed to the train station. The Browns, having concluded their Eastern swing, headed to Cleveland. Boston embarked for New York and a three-game series with the Yankees.

Born on that day: Actor Paul Winfield
Major event: British troops attacked Baghdad.

Archie McKain, Detroit Tigers
Archie McKain

Dick Newsome, Red Sox
Dick Newsome

 

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Game 9 - Friday, May 23, 1941

The Red Sox, with Joe's little brother Dominic patrolling CF, came to the Bronx for a three-day weekend series.

  • Younger by 2 1/2 years, 24-year-old Dom had a solid rookie campaign in 1940: .301 BA in 108 games, 81 R, 46 RBI, 32 2B, 8 HR, and a .367 OBP (to apply a statistic not calculated at the time).
  • Although the younger sibling had slumped in the last week, his .333 average for 1941 topped his brother's by 9 points.
  • The Yankees resided in third place in the AL, 5.5 games behind the leading Indians with the White Sox second. Boston occupied the fourth spot only a game behind the Yanks.

Dominick and Joe DiMaggio at Yankee Stadium
DiMaggio brothers at Yankee Stadium

The game began at 3 pm with a threat of rain and a crowd of only 8,584.

  • The Red Sox used five pitchers to NY's four in a contest with 23 hits and 19 walks. As a result, the game dragged on for 3:05, a very long time in that era.
  • With dark clouds making it difficult to see the ball and no lights, the umpires called the game at the end of the ninth inning with the teams tied at 9. Under the rules, the game would be replayed in its entirety later in the season.
  • Dom went 2-for-4 while Joe managed only an eighth-inning single off Dick Newsome that put the Yankees temporarily in front. Since his brief hitting streak had not yet attracted any attention, no one mentioned that he had gone down to the last of his five ABs before extending it.
  • Williams joined in the hitting fun with 1-for-3 and 3 RBI.

Died that day: Herbert Astin, British motor car manufacturer
Major event: At Griffith Stadium, Washington, Joe Louis defeated Buddy Baer to retain the Heavyweight crown.

Game 10 - Saturday, May 24, 1941

The Yankees and Red Sox engaged in another high-scoring game, the Yanks winning 7-6 at the Stadium.

  • For the third straight game, Joe DiMaggio got only one hit. Earl Johnson gave up the single that knocked in two. Joe also scored twice.
  • Dom went 1-for-4, the hit being a triple that plated a run.
  • Ted Williams had 2 singles in 3 official ABs, with two W and 3 runs scored.

The records were now 20-17 for New York and 15-16 for Boston.

Born on that day: Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan
Major event: The German battleship Bismarck sank the British cruiser Hood, killing 1,416.

Earl Johnson, Red Sox
Earl Johnson

Lefty Grove, Red Sox
Game 11 - Sunday, May 25, 1941

A big Sunday crowd of 36,143 watched the Red Sox gain a split in the three-game series (because of the tie on Friday), 10-3. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson celebrated his birthday by dancing atop the dugout.

  • Lefty Grove, whom everyone at the time knew would be elected to the new Hall of Fame when he retired, pitched a 7-hitter for his 296th career victory. All three runs scored on a fourth-inning HR by Charlie Keller. Lefty would toil until he achieved his 300th win in July, then retire at the end of the season with no more victories.
  • Joe DiMaggio again managed just one hit, a first inning single. Dom's slate showed a double and two walks, scoring all three times he reached base. He was outhitting his older brother for the season .333 to .316.
  • Young Ted Williams was the hitting star of the day: 4-for-5, including a double, with 2 R and 2 RBI. His average jumped to .404.

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Lefty Grove

Off Day - Monday, May 26, 1941

Before embarking on a 17-game road trip, the Yankees enjoyed their first open day since May 9, which was a rainout.

  • The schedule makers in each major league followed the same pattern. They broke each eight-team circuit into four Eastern and four Western teams. These were not "divisions" in the modern sense of the word. Every team played every other club 22 times, 11 home, 11 away. Only the first place team in each league made it to post-season play, which was the World Series.
  • Teams began each season playing within their area: East vs East and West vs West. Then the Eastern teams in one league made a trip to all four Western cities while the other league did the opposite, the Western clubs coming East. Then the teams swapped venues.
  • The Yankees started 1941 with five series against their Eastern rivals, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Athletics, and Washington Senators, before embarking on a trip to the four Western clubs: Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Browns.
  • Then the four Western teams came East. That is why the Yankees were playing the White Sox at home when DiMaggio's streak began on May 15.
  • Now, after hosting the Red Sox, New York would visit Washington and Boston before heading west for the second of four times that season. They would play at Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, and Chicago before returning home June 14 to play the same four clubs, albeit in a different order. By the time they returned, Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak would catch the nation's attention.

The Yankees boarded the train to Washington with a 20-18 record in third place 7 games behind the league-leading Indians.

Born on that day: Football coach Jim Johnson (D-coordinator of the Eagles 1999-2008); tennis player and broadcaster Cliff Drysdale
Major event: A plane from the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal spotted the German battleship Bismarck

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