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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: MAY 15, 1941

DiMaggio's Streak Starts With One Hit

May 15, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eddie Smith can't be found in baseball's Hall of Fame.

He was a 10-year American League journeyman pitcher who bounced around to three teams and whose best record was 14-9 in 1940.

But Eddie is in the baseball record book.

He's the pitcher who got Joe DiMaggio started on his 56-game hitting streak, 58 years ago.

The streak started with a run-scoring single off Smith and continued uninterrupted through July 16.

Yet early in the streak, Americans were slow to catch on. The big early- season news in the 1941 season was Boston's Ted Williams. At one point, he had 30 hits in 56 at-bats. By Memorial Day, when DiMaggio's streak reached 16, Williams' average, .429, was a hundred points higher than DiMaggio's. By June 6, he was hitting .436.

And so it seemed the summer of '41 would belong to Williams.

He got half of it. Williams went on to hit .406, the last .400 season in the major leagues.

DiMaggio's record, too, has withstood all challenges. In fact, in professional baseball, DiMaggio has two of only five hitting streaks lasting 50 or more games. In 1933, he had a 61-game streak with San Francisco in the Pacific Coast League.

Also on this date: In 1965, Dodger Al Ferrara hit a three-run, pinch-homer in the eighth inning to break up a no-hitter by Dick Ellsworth at Dodger Stadium and give the Dodgers a 3-1 victory. . . . In 1912, Ty Cobb went into the stands after a heckler at New York's Hilltop Park. Cobb slugged, kicked and spiked the man, who was missing one hand and part of the other. Cobb was suspended for 10 games and fined $50. To protest the suspension, 19 of his teammates went out on strike for one game. . . . In 1918, Washington's Walter Johnson recorded the longest shutout in baseball history, an 18-inning, 1-0 win over Chicago.

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