Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. Joe DiMaggio: A Hero's Life Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
Joe DiMaggio's 56 Game Streak

Game Date Opponent Hits/At bats
1 5/15 Chicago /home 1-4
2 5/16 Chicago 2-4
3 5/17 Chicago 1-3
4 5/18 St. Louis 3-3
5 5/19 St. Louis 1-3
6 5/20 St. Louis 1-5
7 5/21 Detroit 2-5
8 5/22 Detroit 1-4
9 5/23 Boston 1-5
10 5/24 Boston 1-4
11 5/25 Boston 1-4
12 5/27 Washington/away 4-5
13 5/28 Washington 1-4
14 5/29 Washington 1-3
15 5/30 Boston 1-2
16 5/30 Boston 1-3
17 6/1 Cleveland 1-4
18 6/1 Cleveland 1-4
19 6/2 Cleveland 2-4
20 6/3 Detroit 1-4
21 6/5 Detroit 1-5
22 6/7 St. Louis 3-5
23 6/8 St. Louis 2-4
24 6/8 St. Louis 2-4
25 6/10 Chicago 1-5
26 6/12 Chicago 2-4
27 6/14 Cleveland/home 1-2
28 6/15 Cleveland 1-3
29 6/16 Cleveland 1-5
30 6/17 Chicago 1-4
31 6/18 Chicago 2-4
32 6/19 Chicago 3-3
33 6/20 Detroit 4-5
34 6/21 Detroit 1-4
35 6/22 Detroit 2-5
36 6/24 St. Louis 1-4
37 6/25 St. Louis 1-4
38 6/26 St. Louis 1-4
39 6/27 Philadelphia/away 2-3
40 6/28 Philadelphia 2-5
41 6/29 Washington 1-4
42 6/29 Washington 1-5
43 7/1 Boston/home 2-4
44 7/1 Boston 1-3
45 7/2 Boston 1-5
46 7/5 Philadelphia 1-4
47 7/6 Philadelphia 4-5
48 7/6 Philadelphia 2-4
49 7/10 St. Louis/away 1-2
50 7/11 St. Louis 4-5
51 7/12 St. Louis 2-5
52 7/13 Chicago 3-4
53 7/13 Chicago 1-4
54 7/14 Chicago 1-3
55 7/15 Chicago 2-4
56 7/16 Cleveland 3-4
57 7/17 Cleveland 0-3
  Totals: 91-223 (.408)

May 15, Game 1, New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox (home)
Before the streak starts, DiMaggio is mired in one of the worst hitting slumps of his career. He is hitless in the two games before the streak begins and in the three weeks prior he is batting a paltry .194. On May 14, the Yankees are in fourth place.

On May 15, DiMaggio knocks a single to left field to score shortstop Phil Rizzuto in the first inning. But the hit and the run are meaningless and go unnoticed. The Yankees lose 13-1, their fifth loss in a row.

June 8, Game 24, Yankees vs. the St. Louis Browns, (away)
In a double-header against the St. Louis Cardinals, DiMaggio hits three home runs, the last a monster shot that soars over the stadium’s right field roof. The same day, Ted Williams goes hitless in a double-header win over Chicago. The longest hitting streak in Williams’ career to date, which began the same day as DiMaggio’s, ends quietly at 18 games.

June 17, Game 30, Yankees vs. the Chicago White Sox (home)
On June 17, DiMaggio’s streak is in jeopardy when he comes to bat in the seventh inning. He hits a grounder to shortstop Luke Appling. The ball takes an bad bounce and ricochets off Appling’s shoulder. Official scorekeeper Dan Daniel, who is a friend of DiMaggio’s, signals a hit.

The next day, Appling again flubs a hard grounder by DiMaggio. Daniel again scores it a hit, the Yankee Clipper’s only one this game as well. Since those two days in June, baseball fans and historians have debated, analyzed, and critiqued Daniel’s two questionable calls.

The streak is alive at 31.

June 21, Game 34, Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers (home)
DiMaggio smacks a single off Detroit right-hander Paul "Dizzy" Trout.

"That’s when the pressure really started," DiMaggio says later. "That’s when the public, the press and the pitchers really started noticing."

June 24, Game 36, Yankees vs. St. Louis Browns (home)
DiMaggio is stopped his first three times up, one of his hits a deep drive to left that’s caught. With a 2-1 count in the eighth inning, DiMaggio smacks a line drive over the short stop’s head, his only hit of the game.

After the game, St. Louis manager Luke Sewell asks the pitcher Bob Muncrief why he didn’t just walk DiMaggio. An honorable Muncrief is said to have replied, "That wouldn’t have been fair to him or to me. Hell, he’s the greatest player I ever saw."

For some, that appears to have been an understatement. In Cincinnati, students in a summer high school history class are asked to name the greatest American of all time. Abraham Lincoln fares well, coming in third. George Washington does him one better, finishing second. But DiMaggio is the greatest.

June 26, Game 38, Yankees vs. the St. Louis Browns (home)
DiMaggio flies to left in the second. During his second time up, on a 3-2 count, DiMaggio grounds a ball to second baseman Johnny Berardino, who juggles it, and DiMaggio reaches first. Yankee players step out from the dugout and look up to the press box and wait for the call.

Again, the official scorer is Dan Daniel. This time, he does no favors, and scores an error. In the sixth inning, DiMaggio grounds to third. In the bottom of the eighth, DiMaggio is up fourth. If the Yankees keep their lead, the team won’t bat in the bottom of the ninth. This means that if the side is retired one, two, three, DiMaggio won’t get another chance. Johnny Sturm pops out, but Red Rolfe holds out for a walk.

Tommy Henrich comes to bat, knowing that if he hits into a double play, the streak is over. So he bunts, moving Rolfe to second. DiMaggio comes to the plate. The crowd stands as Joltin’ Joe socks Browns’ Eldon Auker’s first pitch for a double. The fans roar.

June 28, Game 40, Yankees at Philadelphia Athletics (away)
Each pitcher who takes the mound against DiMaggio wants to be the one to stop the streak, figuring it will be a proud feather in his cap. The Athletics’ Johnny Babich, who lost an outing on a DiMaggio hit during Joe’s 61-game hitting streak in the Pacific Coast League, seems more determined than any.

"I’ll get him out the first time," Babich predicts. "and walk him the next three times. That’ll stop him." Yankee players promise to retaliate if Babich lives up to his word. DiMaggio fails to get a hit his first time up.
Then Babich, appearing to follow through on his promise, throws three balls to DiMaggio in the fourth inning. Babich delivers what would have been ball 4, crossing the plate way outside.

However, DiMaggio has plans of his own. He leans out over the plate and swings hard. The line drive rips high and tight between Babich’s legs. Adding insult to near-injury, DiMaggio stretches the single into a double.
The streak survives.

June 29, Games 41 and 42, Yankees vs. Washington Senators (away)
As DiMaggio nears George Sisler’s 41-game record, the streak becomes a front page story. In the first game of a doubleheader, DiMaggio gets a hit off knuckle ball pitcher Dutch Leonard to tie the record. Between games, DiMaggio sits in the clubhouse sipping coffee and smoking, as usual.

Little does he know that someone has snuck into the dugout and stolen his favorite bat. DiMaggio is upset, and fails to get a hit his first three times up in game two. Tommy Henrich offers his bat, and DiMaggio accepts it his last time up. The first pitch by Red Anderson nearly hits him. DiMaggio guesses that Anderson’s next pitch will be a change-up. He’s right, and slaps the pitch into left field. Sisler’s record is eclipsed.

"The Washington Post" >reports that the entire Yankee team did "their version of a jig" on the top steps of the dug-out. Afterwards, a satisfied DiMaggio says, "I wanted that record."

July 1, Game 44, Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox (home)
DiMaggio ties Wee Willie Keeler’s 43-year record of 44 games with a line drive single.

"Here again, I was lucky," writes DiMaggio in his autobiography, "as it was not only the only hit I got in the game but the game was called at the end of five innings." There is no rain for game 45. Keeler’s record is broken in dramatic fashion as DiMaggio hits his 18th homer of the year.

July 5, Game 46, Yankees vs. Philadelphia Athletics (home)
Despite DiMaggio’s nonchalant attitude about his stolen bat (he refers to it as "just a piece of wood"), he wants it back. The thief, who has bragged to his friends back in Newark, New Jersey, agrees to give it back for a small ransom. A courier delivers the bat before the game on July 5.

DiMaggio, like a samurai rediscovering his favorite sword, connects on the first pitch thrown to him that day. It’s a home run.

July 14, Game 57, Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians (away)

Before the game

DiMaggio and good friend Lefty Gomez take a cab to Municipal Stadium. The cabbie tells him, "I got a strange feeling in my bones that you’re going to get stopped tonight." Gomez is reputedly angry, fearing a jinx. DiMaggio seems nonplused, leaving a 30 cent tip on a fare of 20 cents.

During the game
In the first inning, DiMaggio sharply hits an inside curve ball to third baseman Ken Keltner. Keltner, playing DiMaggio deep and too close to the baseline, lunges, back-handing the ball. DiMaggio, slow to get started out of the soft, rain-soaked dirt around home plate, is thrown out by a hair.

DiMaggio walks in the fourth. In the seventh, he hits another hard grounder to Keltner. Keltner backhands it on a short hop, again throwing DiMaggio out. Is Keltner lucky? Not really. He is considered by many to be the best fielding third baseman in the league.

In the eighth, with one out and the bases loaded, Cleveland manager Roger Peckinpaugh calls in right-handed pitcher Jim Bagby Jr. from the bullpen. DiMaggio grounds into a double play. The streak is over.

"They booed me when I came out," Keltner says. "They wanted the streak to go on forever."

When DiMaggio’s streak started, the Yankees were in fourth place and barely playing .500 ball. During DiMaggio’s streak, the Yankees are 41-13. By the time it’s over, the team is squarely in first place, six games in front of Cleveland.

After the game
As Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto tells the story, DiMaggio asks him to wait for him after game 57. They start off toward the Cleveland Hotel. The young Rizzuto doesn’t know what to say to give DiMaggio comfort, so he says nothing.

At the hotel, DiMaggio reaches into his pocket and comes up bare-handed. "Son of a bitch," he says. "I forgot my wallet. . . Phil, how much money you got?"

Rizzuto digs into his pockets, counts the bills, and says, "I got eighteen dollars."

"Let me have it," DiMaggio says. Rizzuto follows DiMaggio into the bar, but DiMaggio tells him, "You go on back to the hotel. I want to relax a bit." DiMaggio spends the evening alone with strangers.

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide
The American Experience | Kids | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe

©  New content 2000 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: