Joe DiMaggio

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Joe DiMaggio : biography

November 25, 1914 – March 8, 1999

DiMaggio might have had better power-hitting statistics had his home park not been Yankee Stadium. As "The House That Ruth Built", its nearby right field favored the Babe’s left-handed power. For right-handed hitters, its deep left and center fields made home runs almost impossible. Mickey Mantle recalled that he and Whitey Ford witnessed many DiMaggio blasts that would have been home runs anywhere other than Yankee Stadium. (Ruth himself fell victim to that problem, as he also hit many long fly outs to center). Bill James calculated that DiMaggio lost more home runs due to his home park than any other player in history. Left-center field went as far back as 457 ft [139 m], where left-center rarely reaches 380 ft [116 m] in today’s ballparks. Al Gionfriddo’s famous catch in the 1947 World Series, which was close to the 415-foot mark [126 m] in left-center, would have been a home run in the Yankees current ballpark. DiMaggio hit 148 home runs in 3,360 at-bats at home versus 213 home runs in 3,461 at-bats on the road. His slugging percentage at home was .546, and on the road, it was .610. Expert statistician Bill Jenkinson made a statement on these statistics:

For example, Joe DiMaggio was acutely handicapped by playing at Yankee Stadium. Every time he batted in his home field during his entire career, he did so knowing that it was physically impossible for him to hit a home run to the half of the field directly in front of him. If you look at a baseball field from foul line to foul line, it has a 90-degree radius. From the power alley in left center field (430 in Joe’s time) to the fence in deep right center field (407 ft), it is 45-degrees. And Joe DiMaggio never hit a single home run over the fences at Yankee Stadium in that 45-degree graveyard. It was just too far. Joe was plenty strong; he routinely hit balls in the 425-foot range. But that just wasn’t good enough in cavernous Yankee Stadium. Like Ruth, he benefited from a few easy homers each season due to the short foul line distances. But he lost many more than he gained by constantly hitting long fly outs toward center field. Whereas most sluggers perform better on their home fields, DiMaggio hit only 41 percent of his career home runs in the Bronx. He hit 148 homers at Yankee Stadium. If he had hit the same exact pattern of batted balls with a typical modern stadium as his home, he would have belted about 225 homers during his home field career.

Joe became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953 but he was not elected until 1955. The Hall of Fame rules on the post-retirement induction waiting period had been revised in the interim, extending the waiting period from one to five years, but DiMaggio and Ted Lyons were exempted from the rule. DiMaggio told Baseball Digest in 1963 that the Brooklyn Dodgers had offered him their managerial job in 1953, but he turned it down. After being out of baseball since his retirement as a player, Joe became the first hitting instructor of the newly relocated Oakland Athletics from 1968 to 1970.

Hitting streak

DiMaggio’s most famous achievement is his MLB record-breaking 56-game hitting streak in 1941. The streak began on May 15, 1941, when DiMaggio went one-for-four against Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Smith. Major newspapers began to write about DiMaggio’s streak early on, but as he approached George Sisler’s modern era record of 41 games, it became a national phenomenon. Initially, DiMaggio showed little interest in breaking Sisler’s record, saying "I’m not thinking a whole lot about it… I’ll either break it or I won’t." As he approached Sisler’s record, DiMaggio showed more interest, saying, "At the start I didn’t think much about it… but naturally I’d like to get the record since I am this close." On June 29, 1941, DiMaggio doubled in the first game of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium to tie Sisler’s record, and then singled in the nightcap to extend his streak to 42.