Teammates help DiMaggio extend streak to 38

Teammates help DiMaggio extend streak to 38

NEW YORK, June 26, 1941 -- Joe DiMaggio's incredible hitting streak is alive and well for another day, but the Yankees' superlative center fielder is learning that he can't do all of the work himself.

Thursday afternoon's 4 to 1 victory by New York over the St. Louis Browns was expected given the large disparity between the two clubs in the American League standings.

 Joe DiMaggio's run to 56: Rewriting the record

It's also become reasonable to say that at least one base hit by DiMaggio, per game, is expected given the fact that he came into this one with 37 such games in consecutive fashion, four shy of the AL record of 41 set by George Sisler of the Browns in 1922 and seven away from the Major League mark of 44 forged by Willie Keeler of the Baltimore Orioles in 1897.

Baseball has a peculiar way of defying expectations, however. Particularly historic ones.

And through much of Thursday's three hours and nine minutes of competition, it looked like DiMaggio's stupendous string might be running out of yarn, until a valiant and ultimately successful stand was made by his eager and able support system: his Yankees teammates.

The Yankees were up, 3 to 1, heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, and DiMaggio, at 0-for-3 for the day, was slated to hit fourth in that inning. So if New York had gone down in order, and kept their lead in the top of the ninth, the slugger wouldn't have gotten another at-bat and the streak would be over.

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DiMaggio had flied out to left field in the second inning, reached on an error by Browns shortstop Johnny Berardino in the fourth and grounded out to third base in the sixth. Simply put, Browns pitcher Elden Auker had his number, and it looked like his celebrated number, now the talk of the country every morning as the newspapers hit the stands, would end at 37.

But the Yankees wouldn't let his streak go down. After a Johnny Sturm popout, Red Rolfe drew a walk, meaning that as long as Tommy Henrich did not hit into a double play, DiMaggio would get a chance. Henrich did his part, laying down a bunt that got Rolfe to second.

As has been the case so many times throughout this remarkable run, the stage was set for DiMaggio to deliver a dramatic moment, and he did just that, hitting the first pitch he saw from Auker to left field for a run-scoring double.

The Yankees' faithful had waited until the late innings to see it and did not go home unhappy as New York won again and remained in a tie with Cleveland for first place in the AL.

DiMaggio's streak now sits at an unimaginable 38 as the Yankees head out of town for two games against the Athletics in Philadelphia and two more in Washington vs. the Senators.

The hope is that by the time they return to the Bronx next week, the Yankees will have first place in the AL all to themselves … and that DiMaggio will have eclipsed Sisler and set his sights on Keeler.

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.