September 28, 2013


Exclamation mark : His .406 campaign was punctuated by determination and emotion (Bob Duffy, 07/05/02, Boston Globe)

His chief rival for baseball eminence, New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio, established a standard that was immediately regarded as immortal. From May 15 to July 17, DiMaggio hit in every game the Yankees played -- 56 in row. It shattered the previous milestones for hitting streaks -- the modern mark of 41 by the St.Louis Browns ' George Sisler in 1923 and the all-time record of 44 by the Baltimore Orioles ' Wee Willie Keeler in 1897.

DiMaggio 's target was more finite, more readily comprehensible, than Williams 's, and his streak dominated fans' interest and news coverage as the summer progressed. But there were no hard feelings from Williams. While the two may have been portrayed as the symbols of the eternal Boston-New York feud, such enmity in fact was not personal.

Dom DiMaggio, Joe 's brother as well as Williams's teammate, had a unique perspective.

''All I can remember,'' he says,''is that Ted would look at the scoreboard and yell over, 'Hey, Dommy, Joe got another one.' ''

Williams's appreciation was sincere, Dom DiMaggio believes.

''I think they had a great admiration for each other,'' he says.''Ted thought Joe was the greatest player ever, and Joe said many times that Ted was the finest hitter he 'd ever seen.''

The writers, with whom Williams was perpetually at odds, apparently considered DiMaggio 's achievement -- and the fact that he won the one component of the triple crown that Williams didn 't, the RBI title with 125 -- the more noteworthy. After the season, they voted him the Most Valuable Player Award, with Williams a close runner-up.

But a certain perspective is in order. Without diminishing DiMaggio 's streak, the fact is that during that 56-game stretch in which he was un- stoppable, he batted .408, just .002 higher than Williams hit during the full 154-game season. And Williams did it despite being walked a league-leading 145 times, getting 456 at-bats. So loath were pitchers to challenge Williams that he often had only one or two chances to swing the bat in games; otherwise, he was on a constant free shuttle to first base.

And Williams had the higher average during those 56 games.

Posted by at September 28, 2013 7:58 AM

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