DiMaggio 1 shy of Sisler after foiling Babich's plan

DiMaggio 1 shy of Sisler after foiling Babich's plan

PHILADELPHIA, June 28, 1941 -- Johnny Babich learned something about Joe DiMaggio on Saturday afternoon, and he learned it the hard way. The lesson taught by the sensational Yankees center fielder? Don't get me angry.

Despite the well-known plans by Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Babich to stop DiMaggio's amazing hitting streak in its tracks via the intentional walk if necessary, the New York slugger and his teammates ended up prevailing against all challenges in a 7 to 4 victory before 13,604 persons in Shibe Park.

Joe DiMaggio's run to 56: Rewriting the record

DiMaggio's celebrated streak has reached 40 games, and his next game with a hit will tie him with George Sisler of the 1922 St. Louis Browns for the American League record and leave him three from tying the Major League mark held by Willie Keeler, who did it for the 1897 Baltimore Orioles.

As has been the case every day of the streak in recent weeks as the newspapers and radio programs have followed every DiMaggio swing with increasing intensity, there was plenty of drama to behold heading into the stadium on Saturday.

Babich, an old acquaintance of DiMaggio from their days coming up in the professional game in Northern California, had made it public that he'd get DiMaggio out Saturday in his first plate appearance and then walk him every other time. The pitcher was certain the streak would end at 39 games.

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The plan looked to be working when DiMaggio just missed a hit foul in the first inning and subsequently popped out to shortstop Al Brancato, granting Babich the seamless first step to completion. And things seemed to be proceeding just as Babich had predicted in the third, when the hurler uncorked three pitches nowhere near the strike zone to run the count to 3 and 0 and almost ensure an intentional free pass.

Well, Babich didn't get that fourth pitch far enough away from the plate … or DiMaggio's bat.

DiMaggio displayed keen focus and maybe a helping or two of resentment as he reached out at the pitch, which was still off the plate. DiMaggio swung violently and connected, sending the ball right past Babich's face into center field. By the time the stunned Babich had realized it, DiMaggio, who had never stopped running, was standing on second base with a double and 40 consecutive games with a hit safely tucked away in the annals of baseball.

Next stop, Sisler. And it could happen in Sunday's doubleheader in Washington against the Senators.

And as for the Yankees, the victory put them back in a tie for first place in the AL after Cleveland's loss at home to the White Sox. New York also extended its Major League record of consecutive games with a home run to 23 when Charlie Keller hit a roundtripper in the seventh inning -- the Yanks' 36th homer in that 23-game span.

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.