75 years ago, stretching from May 15th to July 17th, Joe DiMaggio concreted himself into baseball immortality.
For 56 straight games DiMaggio recorded a hit. Ever since, thousands of players have tried to break this record, but that is no easy task. DiMaggio hit .408 during the streak, going 91-223 from the plate along with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs. When he reached 56 games straight he led the American League in hits, RBIs, runs scored, was tied for home runs, and second only to the legendary Ted Williams in batting average. To put the greatness of his season into perspective, DiMaggio was voted most valuable player of the American League over Ted Williams, in a year that Williams hit .406 for the season. This was the last time any major-leaguer has accomplished hitting over .400. Williams had one of the greatest all time seasons in MLB history, unfortunately for him and Sox fans who were already drowning in the Curse of the Bambino, so did DiMaggio.
This year on the 75th anniversary of the steak, was it destiny for it to be broken? Jackie Bradley Jr, center fielder of the Boston Red Sox on April 25th in Atlanta facing the Braves, began his quest for the streak.
JBJ was an unlikely candidate to break the record considering his past struggles at the plate. After being taken by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2011 draft, using the 40th pick to snatch him, he failed to make a big enough impact and could not stick in the big leagues. Despite his strengths in the field, all three of the managers for the Red Sox since he made his debut (Francona, Valentin, Farrell) could not give him an every day starting spot. Being a liability in the batter’s box restricted him to only 238 games through his first three seasons where he batted a sub-par .212 and had a .293 OBP.
This spring training Jackie Bradley Jr batted .377, so coming into the season Sox fans were excited that this may possibly be the year he puts it together. He started the year just as he finished spring training, on fire. Then on April 25th, he started doing something special. For just over a month, Bradley recorded a hit in 29 straight games. The coverage began very early on thanks to social media and the large following the Red Sox have due to their success so far this season. Opposite from DiMaggio, because of the time period, his streak was first reported by The New York Times with a headline that on June 3, 1941: “DiMaggio, incidentally has hit safely in nineteen straight games”. This was published after Joe D recorded two hits off of the Cleveland Indians’ legendary pitcher, Bob Feller.
The live tweets every time Jackie Bradley Jr stepped to the plate, the notifications from the MLB app as well as Bleacher Report made the streak exciting to follow. Despite failing to hit safely against the Rockies last night in an 8-2 loss, 29 straight games is still very impressive. JBJ is having a great year, batting .341 and is on pace to have 197 hits this season, 91 more than his first three seasons combined. Appreciation of this is due and well deserved, and whenever someone has a hitting streak it makes one thing much more transparent: Joe DiMaggio streak is untouchable. But it’s like a dog chasing a squirrel, it’s still entertaining to watch.
Ironically, in the next game after DiMaggio’s hit streak ended, he began a 16 game streak, giving him a hit in 72 of 73 games. So tonight as the Red Sox go against their AL East rival in Toronto, perhaps Jackie Bradley Jr can find a little more magic in that bat bounce back just as Joe D did 75 years ago.