This Sunday, May 15 marks 75 years since Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio began his 56-game hitting streak, a legendary record that still stands today. To mark the anniversary, MLB Network will debut a new edition of its documentary series MLB Network Presents called 56: The Streak, to look back at the improbable feat during the 1941 season and explore just how difficult it would be to beat in today's game. A clip from 56: The Streak, the first MLB Network Presents installment since the start of the 2016 regular season, is available here.
Narrated by actor, New York native and lifelong baseball fan Ed Burns, the episode features interviews with the players who came closest to the record during their Major League careers, including Hall of Famer Paul Molitor (39), Jimmy Rollins (38) and Pete Rose (44), as well as Robin Ventura, who holds the NCAA hitting streak record at 58 games. Each discusses the challenges in trying to reach such a record, from the attention that continued to build with each game and the circumstances that fell out of their control, as well as their awe of the accomplishment. "Ballplayers that get to this level really strive for consistency and I don't know if anything speaks to consistency more than a 56-game hitting streak," said Molitor. Rose, the player who's come the closest to the streak since 1941 said, "I never looked at the hitting streak as any pressure because only one guy did it more than me and that's Joe DiMaggio. So, what's there to pressure? There's only one Joe DiMaggio."
56: The Streak takes a deep look at how advances in today's game - including pitching specialization and the use of defensive shifts - have changed the landscape of the Major Leagues since 1941. The episode also focuses on the rarity of the streak from an analytical standpoint. Using DiMaggio's batting average and number of plate appearances during the streak, mathematics professor Father Gabe Costa of the United States Military Academy at West Point compares DiMaggio's probability of getting a hit in each game to that of some of the best hitters in today's game, including Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton.
Included throughout the show is commentary from filmmaker Ken Burns, MLB Network host Bob Costas, MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons, baseball journalist Jonah Keri, author Ray Robinson, New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro, and MLB Network insider Tom Verducci, who give historical and statistical context to the endurance of the record and how in 75 years, no hitter has come close to a stretch that put them close to breaking the streak, and perhaps no one ever will.
Hosted by Bob Costas, MLB Network Presents is a series of documentaries and access-driven profiles. Launched in January of 2015, the series has produced programs covering many different storylines, including The Story of Billy Bean and The Nasty Boys: The 1990 Cincinnati Reds, and more recently Holy Cow! The Story of Harry Caray, The Colorful Montreal Expos and Dusty: A Baseball Journey.