Game 38: June 26, 1941
Joe DiMaggio usually owned St. Louis pitching. Everyone did. But the Browns’ Elden Auker, in his next-to-last season, gave DiMaggio fits.
Both he and young Yankee starter Marius Russo were pitching gems on June 26, 1941. With New York leading 3-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, Joltin’ Joe was again hitless. And there were no guarantees he’d even come to bat a fourth time.
Somebody at the top of the Yanks lineup had to reach base. It wasn’t to be rookie first baseman Johnny Sturm—he popped out.
When Red Rolfe reached on a walk, the Bronx faithful were fueled by anticipation. All Tommy Henrich needed to do was avoid hitting into a double play. Henrich knew it as much as anybody.
“Give the Big Dago another chance,” Henrich thought to himself as he balked at going straight to the plate.
“I remember asking Joe (McCarthy), our manager, if I could lay down a bunt,” Henrich told the Associated Press some years later. The streak was as much a part of every Yankee as it was DiMaggio.
Now at 37 straight, the spotlight that the consecutive-game journey brought to the team meant extra perks for the Rizzutos, Crosettis and Kellers. Scribes talked to role players and stars alike. Even if it was about DiMaggio’s streak, it was fun for most of these cordial stars. Most, except, it seemed, tight-lipped Joe DiMaggio.
Quiet, reflective, on a mission, Joe usually didn’t have much to say. There were games to win.
His teammates did his talking for him.
Now, in a way, Henrich was to make a statement on behalf of DiMaggio.
Henrich got his bunt down. Moving Rolfe to second, the Yankee right fielder was thrown out at first. Two down and first base open in a close game, there was nothing automatic about Auker pitching to the Yankee Clipper.
But Auker wanted his guys staying alive. Joe could put this game out of reach, some thought. Maybe he’d get an unintentional pass. Walking DiMaggio then facing home-run threat George Keller with two on wasn’t smart, either.
Auker’s submarine style always bothered Joe. The decision was made: pitch to Joe DiMaggio. End the streak.
In came Auker’s first pitch—a curve. Out to the left field corner went a lined dart. The ball rattled off the railing, and by the time Roy Cullenbine played it back in, DiMaggio stood tall at second. An insurance run had scored and the crowd was bubbling over.
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