Game 45: July 2, 1941
As hot as the Yankees were, winning nine of their last 10 games, the city itself was hotter.
Temperatures on July 2, 1941 were creeping into the mid-90s. Five more people had died in the five boroughs from heat prostration. The beach at Coney Island was crammed with New Yorkers trying to escape the caldron.
Despite Joe DiMaggio’s shot at immortality—or a least the record books—this afternoon, only 8,682 fans showed up.
Vernon Louis Gomez, an eventual Hall of Fame pitcher, was Joe’s best friend on the Yankees. The pair roomed together and the older Gomez ran interference for DiMaggio with the press.
Lefty Gomez was the only guy around who could joke with Joe, even during the down times. It was OK by DiMaggio. He knew El Goofy, as Gomez was called, loved and respected the outfielder. DiMaggio listened to Gomez.
Gomez, also from the San Francisco Bay Area, preceded Joe by a few years in Pacific Coast League stardom.
On this Dutch-oven of a day, the field temperature rose above 100 degrees. Lefty Grove, another future Hall of Fame in his career twilight at 41, scratched as Red Sox starter. Too hot.
Joe’s wife, Dorothy, and her parents were gamely in the stands. A Life magazine reporter was covering the game and a New York Times high-profile feature writer was working on a main news Sunday piece. Dozens of journalists from throughout the nation were in attendance and photographers once again created a maze around home plate.
Several accounts of the afternoon reported a smallish crowd that sounded every bit as loud as a sellout.
Gomez, who got the mound assignment for New York, changed flannel jerseys after pitching three shutout innings. Carrying three extra pounds of sweat was not flattering.
Leading 2-0, when the Yankees came to bat in the fifth, DiMaggio was hitless against 31-year-old rookie Dick Newsome.
On a 2-0 pitch, DiMaggio pulled the fans from their seats with a deep fly ball to left. He also pulled the ball—too much. It sailed foul as Ted Williams chased it to the railing.
On Newsome’s very next pitch, Joe made an adjustment. This time, with two runners on, DiMaggio hit a towering fly directly over Williams' head. Ted turned and watched the ball sail into the bleachers as Willie Keeler and his 44-game hitting streak were eclipsed.
The Yanks cruised, 8-4.
“DiMaggio was the greatest all-around player I ever saw.” – Ted Williams.
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