When Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Smith surrendered a single to Joe DiMaggio on May 15, 1941, even the most ardent DiMaggio fan couldn’t have imagined it was the start of one of the most famous records in baseball history. Two months later, “the streak” had become the talk of the nation. Even the news from Europe that hinted of the potential for war couldn’t knock Joe D from America’s dinner table banter.
When the Yankees returned to Comiskey Park in June, the streak was at an impressive 29 games. When the train pulled into Chicago again a month later, it was still going. By the last game of the series, DiMaggio had hit in 54 straight and was facing the man who had given up the hit that started it all. A single in the third inning made it 55.
DiMaggio’s hitting streak had become such a sensation that photographers asked Smith–the losing pitcher that day–to pose with DiMaggio.
Images of DiMaggio hitting during the streak aren’t rare but you won’t find many showing him with the pitchers he faced on the day he faced them but RMY Auctions is offering an original image from the Chicago Bureau of World Wide Photos in its current auction. The 7×9 image includes the original dated paper caption, still attached. It’s part of the company’s August Auction, set to close this weekend.
Smith wouldn’t be the last pitcher to give up a hit to DiMaggio, but the streak was almost over. After leaving Chicago, the Yankees went to Cleveland where he reached 56 in game one of the series, but was stopped on July 17 in front of over 67,000 fans at Municipal Stadium. Even when he wasn’t getting hits, DiMaggio was making fielders work. He struck out just 5 times in 223 at bats during the streak.