75 years ago today, on July 17, 1941 the streak to end all streaks came to an end. A month and 2 weeks after the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig died, Joe DiMaggio’s epic streak of 56 games with at least one hit ended. While Gehrig’s famous streak of 2130 games played went by the wayside in 1995, DiMaggio’s will stand forever because of the altered nature of the way the game is played. While DiMaggio was doing the impossible, so was Ted Williams, AKA Teddy Ballgame a couple of hundred miles to the north. He hit .406, and was the last man to top the .400 mark for a season. But starting in late June and going to the end of the streak, the eyes of the baseball world were on Joltin’ Joe, the Yankee Clipper. First he passed George Sisler’s modern mark of 41 games. Then it was Wee Willy Keeler’s mark of 44 that had stood since 1897. That went south and on went DiMaggio, which in Italian means the Magic Man. During the streak he hit .408 while Williams, the Splendid Splinter hit .412. For DiMaggio, the magic came to an end on this day. It was a rare night game in Cleveland. Night baseball had only begun 6 years earlier and playing under the sodium arc lamps used at that time was still a novelty. Some 67,000 fans turned out at the relatively new Cleveland Municipal Stadium to see if their team could stop the streak, and the Indians pulled it off. Ken Keltner, their All-Star third baseman made two fancy plays and reliever Jim Bagby induced a double-play grounder to their Hall of Fame shortstop Lou Boudreau the last time Joe D. was up.
In his lifetime, DiMaggio witnessed two men making a try at his record. The most serious threat was posed by Pete Rose who reached 44 straight in 1978. 9 years later Paul Molitor attained a 39-game streak. Both DiMaggio and Williams have gone to their rewards, but their deeds of 75 years past will never be forgotten or bettered. Their two teams are the focus of the night game tonight on ESPN.
Today’s earliest game is at 1:10 Eastern as the Orioles face the Rays in St. Pete. Dylan Bundy of the Birds makes his first major league start. He had once been the 4th pick in the country but Tommy John surgery done in 2013 put his career on hold. This year he’s been in the bull pen until today. For once, Julio Teheran of the Braves shouldn’t feel overmatched as he faces John Gray of the Rockies. Having the dubious honor of being the number 1 starter on a team as bad as the Braves, Teheran ususally faces the Kershaws and Greinkes of the league. In the same way, Roger Craig of the 1962 Mets faced Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson repeatedly on his way to losing 24 games of the team’s 120 losses. As for the modern Mets who are 7 games behind the Nationals, Jacob DeGrom starts for them as they face the Phillies. The ESPN night game has the best pitching matchup as Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees faces David Price of the Red Sox. Price took a beating the last time he went to the Bronx, giving up 6 runs and 7 hits in 4.2 innings.
The White Sox noted closer of long ago, Bobby Thigpen is 53 today. The Tallahassee native was their 4th pick in the 1985 draft, coming out of Mississippi State. Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Brantley were teammates of his who later made the majors. Such was the state of the Sox that he was in the show 14 months later. He lasted until early 1994. He led his league in saves and was an All-Star in 1990. That year he set a record for saves with 57 that has since been broken by Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels. Thigpen hurt his back on a trip to Japan after the 1990 season and was never dominant again. He pitched for the Phillies in the NLCS and World Series of 1993. He’s now the White Sox’ bull pen coach.
Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau, who famously played and managed for the Indians and broadcast for the Cubs was born on this day in 1917 and died in 2001. He was a native of Harvey, Illinois. On a Cubs’ game in 1984 he said he could tell somebody who knew him from Harvey. As a boy his last name was pronounced BudRow. He didn’t say who began pronouncing it BooDrow, but that pronunciation stuck and was heard across the land, particularly in the 1948 World Series. He hit .295 all told in a career that ran from 1938 to 1952. He was an All-Star 8 times over, won an MVP and a batting title. After managing the Indians, he did so in Boston, Kansas City and with the Cubs. He had broadcast from Wrigley as early as 1958. He managed for only the 1960 season, then returned to the booth where he remained until 1987. He worked with broadcasting icons such as Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray.