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).
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.”
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