Yanks split doubleheader with DiMaggio's help

Yanks split doubleheader with DiMaggio's help

BOSTON, May 30, 1941 -- It was only a Memorial Day doubleheader, but enough took place between the Yankees and Red Sox on the field at Fenway Park on Friday that it almost seemed like an entire baseball season in itself. And it wasn't a particularly pretty one.

At the end of the grueling, day-long proceedings, the clubs had split a rather sloppily played twin bill, with the Yankees winning the first game, 4 to 3, and the Red Sox whitewashing New York in the finale, 13 to 0.

Joe DiMaggio's run to 56: Rewriting the record

But there was quite a bit of drama dotting each box score.

In Game 1, played before a jubilant holiday gathering of some 34,000 persons, the biggest Boston baseball crowd of the year, New York took an improbable victory by scratching out three unearned runs in their half of the ninth inning.

The game was scoreless into the third inning, when Boston pitcher Earl Johnson scored on a sacrifice fly by Lou Finney to give the Red Sox a 1 to 0 lead, but New York struck back in quick order in the top of the fourth when Red Rolfe hit a solo home run off Johnson. The tie held until the bottom of the sixth, when Ted Williams led off with a double and Joe Cronin singled him in.

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Boston increased its advantage to 3 to 1 in the eighth when Williams walked, Cronin reached first on a fielding error by Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio, and Williams jogged home on a single by Jim Tabor.

But unfortunate defensive play, a theme of the long day, doomed Boston in the ninth.

Pinch-hitter Red Ruffing hit a one-out single to right and DiMaggio followed with his own single, pushing pinch-runner Phil Rizzuto to second, and Buddy Rosar lined out to left. But a subsequent error by third baseman Tabor allowed Joe Gordon to reach base and the dam broke. Charlie Keller walked to score a run, Frankie Crosetti's single scored DiMaggio and Gordon, and the Yankees held on for the victory.

The second game did not go nearly as well for New York, particularly DiMaggio, who was ill with a throat ailment that left him with swollen glands and a stiff neck, which contributed to some atypical gaffes in the field.

While the center fielder did manage to put his bat on the ball, with a double to right field in the fifth inning his lone hit of the game in three at-bats -- he has at least one hit in each of the last 16 contests -- he didn't do a good job of taking care of it.

DiMaggio made three errors in the outfield, upping his season's total from four to seven, and his teammates contributed to the debacle with three more. The forgettable display, coupled with 16 hits by the Red Sox and a mere two by the Yankees against Boston pitcher Mickey Harris, added up to two hours and 30 minutes of late-afternoon misery for the visiting team.

Somehow there was a bit of good news for New York, even after the shutout. The Cleveland Indians were swept by the White Sox in a doubleheader of their own, meaning the Yankees, at 23-19, have crept to within four games of the league lead.

And on Sunday, they'll get a chance to cut that advantage to two when they travel to Cleveland for a huge twin bill against the Tribe.

On May 15, 1941, Joe DiMaggio began his legendary 56-game hitting streak. In celebration of the 75th anniversary of that seemingly unbreakable record, we'll be doing a day-by-day account of the momentous feat.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.