As yet another baseball hitting streak came to an end this week, it’s time to once again wonder if anyone will ever beat Joe DiMaggio’s consecutive game hitting streak record:
To put things into perspective, DiMaggio’s feat lasted from May 15 to July 16 during the 1941 season. It all began with one fateful swing off of White Sox pitcher Eddie Smith.
Hitting safely in 56 consecutive games requires countless factors to align at exactly the right time. It must be enveloped by a perfect storm of good fortune, skill, consistency, patience, poise, and a helping hand from the baseball gods.
What adds to the uniqueness of a hitting streak is that a player does not actually need a hit to be successful on a given day, and his ability to produce can literally be taken away from him.
If DiMaggio had gone 0-for-1 with two walks, a sacrifice fly, and an RBI groundout, he would have generated two RBI and a .667 on-base percentage. He may have assisted his team much more than a 2-for-4 with two singles, but the streak would be over.
Secondly, unlike most other professional sports, a team’s best player can be neutralized and virtually eliminated in America’s Pastime.
Whether simply expanding the zone to force DiMaggio to chase a bad pitch or intentionally walking him in a critical point of the game, he was never guaranteed a chance to rewrite history.
It takes a very special player, and an even more special man, to possess the skills necessary to prolong a streak of this magnitude.
DiMaggio possessed all of these unique qualities and many more, as he was always composed and determined—but never rushed.
It’s possible, perhaps even probable, that another player will come along someday that possesses all of these skills and that the 56 game record will be broken someday. History makes clear, though that it’s not going to be easy. Pete Rose, who despite all that has happened to him is still one of the best hitters the game has ever seen, got to within 12 games of the streak before falling short in 1978, but Paul Molitor fell five games short of Rose’s streak in 1987, and, most recently Jimmy Rollins fell 17 games short of the record in 2006. Other than those three, everyone who has made a run for the streak has fallen short after somewhere between 30-35 games.
So, yes, the record may be broken someday, but the fact that it has stood for 68 years and that even the man who was arguably the best all-around hitter the game had ever seen couldn’t break it argues strongly that Joe DiMaggio may be immortalized in the record books for a very, very long time.