Year
1941

Joe DiMaggio ends 56-game hitting streak

On this day in 1941, New York Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio fails to get a hit against the Cleveland Indians, which brings his historic 56-game hitting streak to an end. The record run had captivated the country for two months.

Joseph Paul DiMaggio was born November 25, 1914, in Martinez, California. In 1891, his father Giuseppe had emigrated from Sicily to the Bay Area, where he made his living as a fisherman (he was later made legendary by Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea.) The DiMaggio family moved to San Francisco’s Italian-dominated North Beach neighborhood the year Joe was born. Joe was the eighth of nine children, the fourth of five boys, two of whom–his older brother Vince and younger brother Dominic–joined him in the major leagues. His two brothers had successful major league careers, but “Joltin’ Joe,” arguably the best player of his generation, and one of the greatest of all time, was a phenomenon.

In 1941, DiMaggio was in his sixth season as center fielder for the New York Yankees. He had already helped lead the team to the American League pennant and World Series wins alongside first baseman Lou Gehrig in 1936, ’37 and ’38. In 1939, Gehrig fell ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, later known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and DiMaggio picked up the slack. That year, he led the American League with a .381 batting average and helped the Yankees to their fourth championship in a row; they were the first major league team ever to four-peat. In 1940, DiMaggio led the American League in hitting again at .352, but the Yankees finished two games behind Hank Greenberg’s Detroit Tigers.

On May 15, 1941, DiMaggio began his record-breaking streak against the White Sox in Yankee Stadium with a single and an RBI. As the streak continued, fans across the nation took notice. DiMaggio broke George Sisler’s American League record of 41 consecutive games with a hit on June 29 at Griffith Stadium in Washington, and four days later, on July 2, DiMaggio broke “Wee” Willie Keeler’s major league record streak of 44 games. As the nation followed DiMaggio’s progress and he continued to hit in game after game, the Les Brown Orchestra scored a hit with the popular tune “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.”

Finally, on July 17 in Cleveland, in a night game in front of 67,468 fans, DiMaggio went hitless against Cleveland pitchers Al Smith and Jim Bagby, Jr. In his first three at-bats, DiMaggio grounded out to third twice against Smith, both on hard-hit balls, and then walked. With Bagby pitching in the eighth inning, DiMaggio hit into a double play, ending a Yankee rally and the greatest hitting streak in major league history. DiMaggio confided to a teammate after the game that by failing to get a hit he had also lost the $10,000 promised to him by Heinz ketchup for matching the number “57” featured on their labels.

DiMaggio won the 1941 American League MVP over Red Sox slugger Ted Williams in spite of the latter’s .406 batting average that season, the last time any major league player hit over .400. DiMaggio retired after the 1951 season after 13 seasons with the Yankees that included 11 pennants and 10 World Series wins. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Casey Anthony released from prison

On this day in 2011, Casey Anthony is released from jail in Orlando, Florida, 12 days after being acquitted on charges that she killed her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. The Casey Anthony trial riveted Americans, many of whom were stunned when a jury found the 25-year-old not guilty ...read more

Flight 800 explodes over Long Island

Shortly after takeoff from New York’s Kennedy International Airport, a TWA Boeing 747 jetliner bound for Paris explodes over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 people aboard. Flight 800 had just received clearance to initiate a climb to cruise altitude when it exploded without ...read more

Superpowers meet in space

As part of a mission aimed at developing space rescue capability, the U.S. spacecraft Apollo 18 and the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 19 rendezvous and dock in space. As the hatch was opened between the two vessels, commanders Thomas P. Safford and Aleksei Leonov shook hands and ...read more

Disneyland opens

Disneyland, Walt Disney’s metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism, opens on July 17, 1955. The $17 million theme park was built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, and soon brought in staggering profits. Today, Disneyland hosts more than 14 million ...read more

Wheeler visits South Vietnam

Gen. Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducts four days of conferences and inspections with U.S. commanders in South Vietnam. This was an effort to assess the progress of the South Vietnamese armed forces and to discuss future strategy. Upon his return to ...read more

Truman records impressions of Stalin

On this day in 1945, President Harry S. Truman records his first impressions of Stalin in his diary.Truman described his initial meeting with the intimidating Soviet leader as cordial. “Promptly a few minutes before twelve” the president wrote, “I looked up from the desk and ...read more

“Wild Bill” Hickok kills a soldier

A drunken brawl turns deadly when “Wild Bill” Hickok shoots two soldiers in self-defense, mortally wounding one of them.William Hickok had earned his reputation as a gunslinger a decade earlier after shooting three men in a gunfight in Nebraska. He parlayed his standing as a ...read more

John Jacob Astor is born

Destined to make a fortune from the furs of the American West, John Jacob Astor is born in modest circumstances in the small German village of Waldorf.Although the number of foreign immigrants to the U.S. who succeeded in striking it rich is often exaggerated in the popular mind, ...read more

Erle Stanley Gardner is born

Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of crime-solving attorney Perry Mason, is born on this day in Madlen, Massachusetts.Gardner attended college in Indiana but dropped out and moved to Southern California. He worked as a typist in a law firm for three years, then became an attorney ...read more

High Society, Grace Kelly’s last film, opens

On this day in 1956, the movie-musical High Society, starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra, opens in theaters around the United States. The film’s tag line–”They’re all together for the first time”–referenced High Society’s all-star cast. High Society marked the ...read more

Port Chicago disaster

An ammunition ship explodes while being loaded in Port Chicago, California, killing 332 people on this day in 1944. The United States’ World War II military campaign in the Pacific was in full swing at the time. Poor procedures and lack of training led to the disaster. Port ...read more

Potsdam Conference begins

The final “Big Three” meeting between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain takes place towards the end of World War II. The decisions reached at the conference ostensibly settled many of the pressing issues between the three wartime allies, but the meeting was ...read more