Game 33: June 20, 1941
On June 20, 1941, the U.S. Air Corps was folded into the Army Air Forces (as infantry or artillery divisions were). It was another presidential step in the preparation for our nation’s entry into World War II.
“The Germans are getting their asses kicked in Russia,” Vic Ruppone told childhood friend Earle Lewis. “We’ve got to go.”
Lewis and Ruppone, both of whom attended Lincoln High in Jersey City, N.J., had tried to join the Marine Corps a month before. Both men were strapping—each standing 6'5" and athletic. The Marines, however, rejected both: too tall.
But today, Friday, Lewis had one thought.
Enough said, off the two went.
DiMaggio was his own miniature attack unit that afternoon.
Colorful, much-traveled Bobo Newsome was on the mound for the Tigers. Over a 20-year career, the South Carolina native would play for nine Major League teams—winning 211 games, losing 222.
Briefly, in 1947, he was DiMaggio’s teammate. Today he was Joltin’ Joe’s plaything.
DiMaggio went 4-for-5. Lewis and Ruppone were almost as lucky. Some big shot saw the guys in line for tickets and gave them two box seats right behind home plate.
The Yankees won, 14-4. The two friends celebrated. They took subway into Manhattan, feasted at a Horn and Hardart automat on Sixth Avenue and took in a movie.
Ruppone and Lewis enlisted the following week. Lewis eventually became a radio man with the Fifth Army in Africa and Italy. Ruppone later was assigned to a bomber group out of England.
Sixty years later, Lewis, then 81, talked fondly of DiMaggio and his buddy Vic.
“I loved DiMaggio. Vic was a Henrich guy,” Lewis recalls. “I loved them both.”
Lewis, after four years in the service, would return to his Jersey City home and go to work for Westinghouse. He would see DiMaggio play many more times.
Ruppone died in combat, his B-25 shot down over Belgium in 1943. Lewis wept as he told the story, then straightened up.
“But you should have seen that goddamn DiMaggio play!”
JoeDiMaggio.com is the official and authorized Web site of Joe DiMaggio. During the 70th anniversary of DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, it is publishing “Reliving Joe DiMaggio’s Streak,” which follows the daily progress of Joltin' Joe in 1941. Series Archive