No, we're not stuck in a time warp, where the Yankee Clipper is again patrolling the enormous outfield at Yankee Stadium, but this does happen to be the 75th anniversary of DiMaggio's league-record 56-game hitting streak that he put together in the summer of 1941. As of June 7th, he's up to 22, with plenty more left to go.
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #1 An American Hero|
75 years is quite a long time, and despite all the changes that baseball has gone through since the summer before Pearl Harbor, Joe DiMaggio's record has stood the test of time. Plenty have fallen since then, including the career home run record (twice), career strikeouts, career stolen bases, consecutive games played, number of Red Sox championships, and lots more. A few still remain, like the season RBI record, career doubles, and lowest career ERA.
Because of how the game has changed (or just out of sheer luck), some are likely to outlast the pyramids, like career wins, career losses (same guy), career shutouts, season wins, and I'd wager consecutive no hitters. Even if lightning strikes twice and someone hurls two no-hitters in a row again, no one will ever throw three straight. I expect Johnny Vander Meer's name to come up following every no-hitter remaining in baseball's future.
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #9 Classic Swing|
To honor his legendary accomplishments, Pinnacle took their black borders that were such a hit the year before, added a bit of gold foil, and printed up a limited-edition 30-card set in 1993. Keep in mind that's limited-edition by 1993 standards, which means a print run of either "just" 209,000 or 200,000 depending on whether you check the Certificate of Authenticity card and Beckett, or the bottom of the black and gold tin containing the set.
They even threw in an Authenticator Lens. Picture a transparent Sportflix or Opening Day Stars card. Using this, you can decipher that little gray square on the back of most Pinnacle cards, transforming it into either a rainbow pattern or a few letters describing the set, depending on whether the lens is oriented horizontally or vertically.
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #30 Baseball's Greatest Living Player|
It's kind of an accident that I'm posting about this set on the 75th anniversary of #TheStreak. I purchased this set about a year ago from my regular card dealer at one of his monthly card shows. He had two available, a solid .001% of the total print run. I still haven't blogged about the other cards I got at that show, and I sadly haven't had a chance to go to one since. But just as well, since I wouldn't have a handy hashtag to go along with this set if I did it last year. And I definitely would not have realized the streak's milestone was due in 2016.
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #28 The Final Season|
Anyway, DiMaggio and Mantle both chased it down, but Mantle caught his shoe on an outfield sprinkler and watched the next game from the hospital. Though Mantle managed to put together a first-ballot Hall of Fame career after that, he wasn't so different from Bo Jackson, another player with astronomical potential plagued by injury.
But the Yankees having DiMaggio followed by Mantle in center field for over three decades is a big reason for why the Bronx Bombers are such a storied franchise. And at least one of those two were present for over half of their 27 championships.
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #7 Fan Favorite|
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #22 World War II|
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #18 Sticks 'n' Bones|
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #24 The Summer of '41|
As amazing as DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Ted Williams were, there is a lot of talk about how much better they could have been. Of course, discussion around Mantle's potential center mostly around his perpetually aching knees. But if The Splendid Splinter had been a Yankee, and The Yankee Clipper had been a Red Sock (I can't get enough of these old-timey nicknames), their stats might have been even better.
DiMaggio was a righty, and Williams was a lefty. Picture Williams with a short right field wall just like Babe Ruth liked, and DiMaggio with a giant green monster in left. Some of those records that stand to this day might have fallen. For that matter, how many Willie Mays home runs did the wind in Candlestick Park knock down into mere fly balls? Four a year, perhaps? If so, Mays would have eclipsed Ruth's career home run record before Hank Aaron.
Surely they'd all be regarded as legends wherever they played, but to think of what their stats would have been like in a more favorable stadium (or with good knees) makes their accomplishments even more amazing.
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #26 No. 45|
Every couple years, a player gets about halfway there. Jackie Bradley had a streak going for 29 games earlier this year until Jon Gray and the Rockies rolled into Boston and ended the fun. Nolan Arenado got precisely halfway in 2014, setting the Rockies' team record for longest hitting streak at 28. The Red Sox had another challenger this year, with Xander Bogaerts' streak stopping a few days ago at 26. Boston has put up quite a few challengers over the years, including Joe's own brother Dom, who hit in 34 straight in 1949.
To the question "did he get one?" that was asked all across America in the summer of 1941, you already know the answer, but if you'd like a smartphone app to tell you, download it and watch your notifications before July 17th.
Oh, and DiMaggio still reached base that day. And followed it up with a 16 game streak all the way into early August. He hit safely in 72 of 73, and reached base in 83 consecutive games.
|1993 Pinnacle DiMaggio #2 San Francisco Seals|
Pete Rose (44) and Paul Molitor (39) are the closest anyone's gotten since then. In the Wild Card era, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Luis Castillo have pushed streaks into the mid-30s. And every day a new streak starts. But few will be surprised if #TheStreak turns out to be truly unbreakable.