You never know when you will just happen to be in the right place, at the right time, to witness something that will turn out to be important and historic.
OK, sure, a lot of the time you do know you’re witnessing something important and historic.
But, that kind of reasoning is not helping me make my point today.
My point is this …
Sometimes you don’t know.
The New York Yankees were shmooshed on May 15, 1941.
I’m going to write that again, because it was fun to write.
The New York Yankees were shmooshed, crushed, demolished, creamed, pounded, trounced, wrung out and hung up to dry on May 15, 1941.
(This is fun!)
The Chicago White Sox did the shmooshing and 13-1 was the final score.
The Yankees had last won a game back on May 8. In their next five games – all losses – the Yankees were outscored 40-12.
Some 9,040 “hooting and hissing” Yankees fans turned out to watch the Yankees slide to 14-15 on the season.
(As an Orioles fan, I can confirm that a 14-15 record doesn’t sound all that bad.)
It’s always special when your hometown newspaper turns on you.
Here’s the New York Daily News:
“The lone sliver of sunshine for Yankees fans in the grotesque goings-on is the fact that the boys got rid of so much bad baseball there might not be any more festering in their systems.”
(This is so much fun!)
Tell us more, Daily News:
The Yankees “not only committed two costly errors, but they threw to wrong bases, they juggled fly balls, they failed to cover bases, their pitchers gave up six rather damaging walks, and they themselves blew numerous scoring opportunities.”
(This is so Orioles-esque that I’m getting a little teary-eyed as I write it.)
The New York Times was more succinct: “It was a sad day.”
May 15, 1941 was a Thursday. It was a little overcast, but generally a nice day topping out in the high 70s at Yankee Stadium. You’d think it would have taken some time for the White Sox to score all those runs, but the game was a brisk 2:10.
This game is not historic because the Yankees lost that day, no matter how giddy it has made me.
This game is historic because on this date, in this very game, this horrible, embarrassing shmooshment of the Yankees, center fielder Joe DiMaggio got a hit.
And, you know what came next. Of course, you do.
Fifty-five more games with DiMaggio hits, straight through to July 17. He batted .408 over the course of those 56 games.
Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is still considered one of the greatest records in baseball history.
It pains me to say that it is the Baltimore Orioles’ legendary Wee Willie Keeler – who hit in 45 straight games – who sits in the shadow of DiMaggio’s record.
Hold on there, Pete Rose sympathizers. Some people, noting that Rose hit in 44 straight games in 1978, will argue that the 45-game record held by beloved and legendary Baltimore Oriole Wee Willie Keeler, who was, I point out, never banned from baseball, is tainted.
Because, see, Keeler had a hit on the last day of the 1896 season … a hitting streak that he continued through the first 44 games of the 1897 season.
Let’s do the math.
1 game + 44 games = ?
a) 45 games
b) obviously 45 games
c) 1 game more than Pete Rose
d) all of the above
The correct answer is d.
You may argue this all you wish.
I stand with Wee Willie “I was never banned from baseball” Keeler.
But, back to Joe DiMaggio and May 15, 1941.
It was a single to left that day – DiMaggio’s first hit in three days. And, it drove in the Yankees only run.
Far less remembered is that DiMaggio also had an error that day on an errant throw in the first inning that led to an unearned run for the Sox.
But, that’s not the point. The point is that sometimes you don’t know when you’re witnessing something important. Those 9,040 “hooting and hissing” Yankees fans had no idea that they were at the start of a historic moment in baseball history.
The Daily News doesn’t recognize DiMaggio’s hitting streak until it reaches 12 straight at the end of May.Embed from Getty Images
June 29, 1941
When the streak ends on July 17, DiMaggio tells reporters: “I can’t say that I’m glad it’s over. Of course I wanted it to go on as long as I could. Now that the streak is over, I just want to get out there and keep helping to win ball games.”
That’s pretty much what he did.
The Yankees would go on to win 101 regular season games in 1941. They would defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series.
Most people don’t remember that. But, DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak? That, people remember.
But, back to the start. May 15, 1941.
Not everything that day made history. In case you were wondering, the Boston Red Sox lost on May 15, too.
Joe’s little brother, Dom DiMaggio, started in center field for the Sox that day. How did he do? He went 0-for-3.