Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Fennelly: DiMaggio's hitting streak, 75 years later, 'unfathomable' today

ST. PETERSBURG — We interrupt this Orioles-Rays series for a diamond anniversary.

Seventy-five years ago tonight, Yankees centerfielder Joe DiMaggio took the collar at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, going 0-for-3.

After 56 consecutive games, two months of baseball, DiMaggio's hitting streak ended.

But it has never died.

Fifty-six is as alive as it was three-quarters of a century ago.

Beat that, Pokemon Go.

"It's even more impressive now," said Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who once hit in 16 straight games. "Because it'll never happen again. Think about it: The best ever get a hit just three out of 10 times. To have that (DiMaggio) streak, that kind of success, day after day, it's just unfathomable."

Day after day.

Unfathomable.

There are all kinds of baseball records that seem unbreakable. Cy Young's 511 wins, Nolan Ryan's 5,714 strikeouts, Pete Rose's 4,256 hits. Today's players can pull a muscle just thinking about Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played.

But there's just something about DiMaggio and The Streak. Still.

Rays first baseman Logan Morrison once hit in 16 straight games. Like Longoria, he thinks 56 is untouchable.

"Because of the way the game has changed," Morrison said. "You don't see the same pitchers four times. You get specialty guys, you get closers, advance scouting, shifts, all of it."

Morrison thought of DiMaggio and 56.

"But the truly great players, it's not what they do one day, it's what they do day after day. That's the streak. And there's the romantic thing, even now."

The romantic thing.

The immigrant's son, pride of the Melting Pot, doing the job, day after day. Joseph Paul DiMaggio, just 26 at the time, was the perfect cleanup hitter for an America that had emerged from the Great Depression and was in its last shaft of sunlight before Pearl Harbor plunged it into World War II.

Then there's 56 itself.

Unfathomable.

Rose came closest to DiMaggio, hitting in 44 straight in 1978.

"That's still 12 games away," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "It's not that close."

And we all know that DiMaggio always held the tiebreaker:

He married Marilyn Monroe.

Showalter smiled.

"Which was better to be remembered for, 56 or marrying Marilyn Monroe?"

Back to The Streak. DiMaggio batted .408 during it, with 91 hits in 223 at-bats. Thirty-four times he kept The Streak alive with a single hit, six times in his final at-bat. He played in seven doubleheaders. He hit 15 home runs and drove in 55 runs. He struck out five times. Oh, and the Yankees went from 5½ games out of first place to seven games in front.

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy and centerfielder Adam Jones talked about The Streak before Friday's game. Jones once hit in 20 straight games. Hardy once had a 19-game streak. Hardy couldn't wait for the thing to end.

"It was stressful," he said. "Fifteen games in and everybody wanted to talk about it."

Sitting nearby was Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.

"I couldn't get a hit in BP for 56 straight games," Wieters said.

DiMaggio died in 1999. He had loved fame and money — and distance. He apparently was one weird dude. Showalter managed the Yankees in the 1990s. He remembers an occasional moment with DiMaggio.

"It was like seeing the pope. He'd come for Old Timers Day. Always impeccably dressed and coiffed. Regal. One year at Old Timers, Mickey Mantle put on earrings before introductions, just to have fun with everybody. DiMaggio? He had a lot of class to him, but he was very private. I know the people he let in (to his life) thought a lot of him. Only he didn't let a lot of people in."

In the Orioles clubhouse Friday, Jones made a joke.

"The Streak is going down," he said. "I'm going for it, starting today."

Hardy grinned.

"I'll be watching for it."

Jones went 0-for-4.

Happy 75th, Joe D.

 
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