Best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941) and his career with the New York Yankees, DiMaggio (left) was a three-time MVP winner and 13-time All-Star (the only player to be selected for the All-Star Game in every season he played). Gould (1941–2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation.

Stephen J. Gould: The Singularity of DiMaggio’s Streak

Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is arguably the single most unattainable record in all of sports.

I recall reading a treatise on the subject by another American icon, Stephen J. Gould (1941-2002), a few years ago. Gould was a well-known professor at Harvard University, an internationally recognized evolutionary theorist. He published dozens of books and articles on paleontology, evolution and a variety of other scientific disciplines. He was also an avid baseball fan and wrote extensively on America’s national pastime. He was featured in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, Baseball (1994).

Best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941) and his career with the New York Yankees, DiMaggio (left) was a three-time MVP winner and 13-time All-Star (the only player to be selected for the All-Star Game in every season he played). Gould (1941–2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science.

Best known for his 56-game hitting streak (May 15–July 16, 1941) and his career with the New York Yankees, DiMaggio (left) was a three-time MVP winner and 13-time All-Star (the only player to be selected for the All-Star Game in every season he played). Gould (1941–2002) was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science.

He was asked to review the book, Streak: Joe DiMaggio and the Summer of ’41 by Michael Seidel (McGraw-Hill,1988). His review appeared on August 18, 1988, in the New York Review of Books.

I thought you might enjoy Gould’s insights.

“In 1941, as I gestated in my mother’s womb, Joe DiMaggio got at least one hit in each of fifty-six successive games. Most records are only incrementally superior to runners-up; Roger Maris hit sixty-one homers in 1961, but Babe Ruth hit sixty in 1927 and fifty-nine in 1921, while Hank Greenberg (1938) and Jimmy Foxx (1932) both hit fifty-eight. But DiMaggio’s fifty-six–game hitting streak is ridiculously and almost unreachably far from all challengers (Wee Willie Keeler and Peter Rose, both with forty-four, come second). Among sabremetricians1—a contentious lot not known for agreement about anything—we find virtual consensus that DiMaggio’s fifty-six–game hitting streak is the greatest accomplishment in the history of baseball, if not all modern sport.”

Here is the original article by Stephen J. Gould for The New York Review of Books (August 18, 1988)

 

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  • blythe55

    Great read!  And what about DiMaggio’s record of NEVER being thrown out running from 1B to 3B?  Phenomenal!

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      DiMaggio was one of the greatest players ever. We have him rated 2nd only to the Babe himself.

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      DiMaggio was as good as it gets. That is why we rate him as our #2 player of All-Time!

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      Mantle, Mays and Speaker were all great. We have them in a tie, just a hair behind DiMaggio for greatest center fielder ever.

  • CubsForever31

    During his 56-game hitting streak season (1941), DiMaggio’s stats are simply unapproachable:

    541 At-bats (139 Games)
    122 Runs
    125 RBI’s (1st)
    348 Total Bases (1st)
    .357 Ave.
    .440 OBP
    .643 SLG
    1.083 OBS
    30 HR’s
    11 Triples
    43 Doubles
    193 Hits
    76 Walks
    13 K’s

    That last stat alone of 13 K’s is absolutely mind-boggling, along with 30 HR’s!  His career of 361 HR’s and 369 K’s in thirteen seasons is astounding.  There are no batters today, let alone power hitters, who can claim anything close to these stats.  He also grounded in to only 6 double plays in 1941.

    Anyone who doubts that DiMaggio should be the top centerfielder of all time (or at least share that top spot with Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Tris Speaker) just doesn’t get it.

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      Mantle, Mays and Speaker were all great. We have them in a tie, just a hair behind DiMaggio for greatest center fielder ever.