Game 40: June 28, 1941
Almost 14,000 came to Shibe Park on a brilliant Saturday afternoon, June 28, 1941.
Philadelphia pitcher Johnny Babich was a California contemporary of DiMaggio’s. Born in Albion—160 miles north of San Francisco—a year before Joe, Babich went to high school across the Bay in Richmond and played for the Mission Reds of the old Pacific Coast League.
Originally inked by the Dodgers, Babich suffered arm problems resulting in surgery. He returned to the Yankee farm system, but was sold to Philadelphia before returning to the majors. Babich was limited by the tender tendons in his arm and the chip on his shoulder.
The stocky A’s hurler had a plan to stop DiMaggio, and everybody on both teams knew it: get Joe out once, and walk him each time up afterwards.
The strategy weighed heavy on DiMaggio, according to 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports:
“DiMaggio did not care for Johnny Babich, nor for the bases-on-balls plan that Babich had devised. In the first inning … Joe lifted a high pop fly that the shortstop Al Brancato settled under and caught. Babich had his out.”
In the third, emotion grew in each dugout. Babich’s intentions were known to both clubhouses. Fans were in the dark. Babich, true to promise, went 3-0 to DiMaggio.
Yank manager Joe McCarthy recalled his hitter’s demeanor: “It was a look of hot resentment, fierce but controlled. Seething. It was not a look that McCarthy recalled ever seeing on a ballplayer’s face,” according to Kostya Kennedy’s 56.
When Babich threw what was to be ball four, it wasn’t far enough off the plate. DiMaggio almost came out of his cleats swinging. The resulting line drive whizzed inches past Babich’s face into center field.
DiMaggio never stopped running at first and roared into second with a double.
“It was probably my most satisfying hit of The Streak,” DiMaggio later told the San Francisco Chronicle.
For the Yankees, Charlie Keller’s four RBI day in a 7-4 victory launched a 14-game New York winning streak. The Bombers had hit home runs (Keller’s 15th) in 23 consecutive games—an ongoing major-league record.
With Cleveland’s 6-4 loss to the White Sox, New York would never again be out of first place in 1941.
Yankee Nation was humming on its way to Washington, D.C., where DiMaggio could eclipse George Sisler’s 41-consecutive-game American League record in tomorrow’s doubleheader.
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