Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is one of major-league baseball’s iconic achievements, but “The Yankee Clipper” already was used to long hitting streaks. As an 18-year-old for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, DiMaggio hit safely in a mind-numbing 61 consecutive games from May 27 to July 25, 1933.
That is the backdrop for this photograph, published in February 1936. DiMaggio is holding a young fan and showing him the trophy he won for the 61-game hitting streak. The 6-inch by 8-inch photo is among more than 400 historic images up currently for bid through Saturday at RMY Auctions.
On the back of the photo is a wire-service caption with the headline “Big Joe Tells Little Joe.” It bears the stamp “N.E.A.” which stood for the Newspaper Enterprise Association. NEA, founded in 1902, was the first syndicate to supply feature stories, illustrations, and cartoons to newspapers,
According to the caption, DiMaggio is sitting with his nephew and namesake, 5-year-old Joe DiMaggio. In February 1936, DiMaggio would be heading to spring training for his rookie season with the New York Yankees. The boy, Joseph Thomas DiMaggio was the son of Joe’s older brother, Mike DiMaggio.
“Little Joe DiMaggio, 5, has it all over the other kids on his block, in San Francisco, when they talk of uncles,” the caption reads.
The descriptive paragraph by RMY Auctions notes that DiMaggio was telling “the young fan” about his hitting streak the previous year (1935), but the copywriter appears to have misunderstood the original wire caption — an easy thing to do, given the comma-heavy, convoluted writing style of the 1930s.
That hitting streak came during DiMaggio’s first full season in professional baseball. He shattered the minor-league record of 49 consecutive games, set in 1915 by Jack Ness of the PCL’s Oakland Oaks. During his streak, Ness had 79 hits and batted .457. The first baseman finished with 237 hits in 186 games and batted .339.
Little Joe would be able to brag about his uncle for many years, as Joe DiMaggio went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Yankees.
The auction ends June 18 at 8 p.m. EST.