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Monday, July 18, 2016

DiMaggio streak: hitless against some pitchers in some games.

During last night's game on ESPN at Yankee Stadium, the announcers did a piece on the 56 game hitting streak of Joe DiMaggio. It was the 75th anniversary of the end of the streak.

I looked up some stuff this morning and came across the obligatory anti-DiMaggio stuff, much of which centered on the racial segregation of major league baseball in 1941 and how that impacted the value of the streak. I doubt that as much as ten percent of those who pound home that message ever bring it up about Ted Williams batting .406 in 1941, the last .400 average.

But here is something simple that's been sitting in the open all along and I wondered about it.

56 Game Hitting Streak by Joe DiMaggio in Baseball Almanac

There is a list of all 56 games and the pitchers against whom DiMaggio had hits during the streak. For some games multiple pitchers. What is interesting is that DiMaggio has a hit against every pitcher listed. Initially I thought that must be a mistake, that he must have faced a pitcher, maybe just once in a game, and not gotten a hit. So I checked.

Click this link to view all 1941 DiMaggio plate appearances derived from baseball-reference.com. It contains three tabs:
- All PA
- 56 game streak
- Retired DiMaggio without a hit.

As an example here are details for the first game in which DiMaggio faced multiple pitchers during the streak:

Sunday, May 18, 1941,
, Yankee Stadium I
Attendance: 30,109, Time of Game: 2:30
Yankees 12, Browns 2
Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA BF GSc IR IS WPA aLI RE24
Bob Harris, L (2-3) 4 11 8 7 4 1 0 6.21 27 7 -0.450 1.06 -5.9
Johnny Niggeling 4 5 4 4 3 2 1 6.41 20 0 0 -0.009 0.04 -1.9
Team Totals 8 16 12 11 7 3 1 12.38 47 7 0 0 -0.459 0.63 -7.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2016.

Harris: 1B, 2B, catcher's interference
Niggeling: BB, 1B

But no. The Baseball Almanac list does not show games in which pitchers held DiMaggio hitless in a game during the streak. Here is the first such game:

Tuesday, May 20, 1941,, Yankee Stadium I
Yankees 10, Browns 9

Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA BF GSc IR IS WPA aLI RE24
Elden Auker 7 8 8 7 4 1 0 5.01 32 28 -0.629 1.39 -3.3
George Caster, BS (1), L (0-3) 1.2 2 2 1 1 0 1 5.06 9 2 2 -0.818 2.96 -2.4
Team Totals 8.2 10 10 8 5 1 1 8.31 41 28 2 2 -1.447 1.74 -5.7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2016.
DiMaggio was 1 for 4 against Elden Auker but 0 for 1 against George Caster. It was an odd out: Groundout: CF-3B/Forceout at 3B; Henrich to 2B.

It turns out that many pitchers retired DiMaggio at least once without a hit in games during the streak.

Bobo Newsom is the only one of them to hold DiMaggio hitless all three times he pitched to him in a game during the streak:

Thursday, May 22, 1941,
, Yankee Stadium I
Attendance: 10,156, Time of Game: 2:25
Yankees 6, Tigers 5

In the 7th, in his final plate appearance (PA), DiMaggio singled to left off Archie McKain.

The next day against Boston, three pitchers, for the only time during the streak, held DiMaggio without a hit:
Joe Dobson
Mickey Harris: twice; DiMaggio was 0 for 2 against Harris again 7/1/1941
Emerson Dickman

But in the 8th, again in his final PA, DiMaggio singled, this time off Dick Newsome.

The streak ended 7/17/1941 in Cleveland; Yanks won 4-3:
Al Smithahead 0-1Outt1-2-1Groundout: 3B-1B; Henrich to 3B
Al Smithahead 0-1BBt4---2Walk
Al Smithtied 1-1Outt7---1Groundout: 3B-1B
Jim Bagbyahead 1-4Outt81231Ground Ball Double Play: SS-2B-1B

DiMaggio then got at least one hit in each of the next 16 games. During the 56 game streak the Yankees went from fourth place, 5 games back, to first place 6 games in front of Cleveland. That's probably why DiMaggio was voted MVP over Ted Williams who batted .406.

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