Thursday, June 21, 2007

Unbeatable Records? Put DiMaggio's Streak At The Top

It's good fodder for the barroom. Add it to other great debates over a pop, such as who does and doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

The question, simply: Which of baseball's records are least likely to be broken, if ever?

Now, some rules. I'm not talking about ridiculously unachievable marks, such as Cy Young's 511 career victories. Actually, I'm not talking about longevity at all, really. OK, I'll give it up: I'm talking specifically of one record, and one record only.

Nobody -- repeat, NOBODY -- will again hit in 56 consecutive games, as Joe DiMaggio did in 1941. No sir. If this blog were on paper, I'd tell you to print it in indelible ink. But not before having it notarized and placed into a time capsule. These words of mine, you can mark.

Casey Blake of the Indians recently had a hitting streak. Maybe he still has it, for all I know. Last I checked, Blake had hit safely in 26 straight games. Pardon me while I *yawwwwwn.*

No disrespect to Blake, but that's still less than half of DiMaggio's streak, and it's still considered by many to be impressive. And, frankly, it is. Twenty-six games really are nothing to yawn at, despite my titter in the above paragraph. But that just illustrates my point. Nobody has come close, really, to placing DiMaggio's streak in jeopardy. And were talking 66 years. And counting.

Pete Rose came the closest. His streak reached 44 games in 1978, before Atlanta's Gene Garber struck him out to end it. Rose sneered afterward that Garber was "pitching like it was the seventh game of the World Series." Sour grapes? Sure. But Pete was still 12 games shy of tying Joltin' Joe. And that was 29 years ago.

I don't have any scientific research or fancy numbers or DNA samples to prove my theory. It's just a solid hunch. Funny how, in this world of expansion, "watered down" baseball where the pitching is far inferior to that which DiMaggio faced in 1941, that still no one has seriously threatened the 56-game streak. And nor did anyone before the ever-expanding media glare, which has been blamed for why certain records still exist today. When ballgames were played in relative anonymity -- pretty much just for the paying customers -- under the sun in the '40s and '50s, when media attention was limited to a couple of beat writers and a few radio announcers, no batsman took a run at DiMaggio. So maybe it's not the ESPN generation after all.

Maybe it's just too damn hard to do.

Think about it. Fifty-six games in a row. That's more than a third of a season. What's even more amazing is that the day after DiMaggio's streak was stopped -- and largely because of two outstanding defensive plays at third base by Cleveland's Ken Keltner -- the Yankee Clipper started another one. It lasted 17 games, I believe. So he hit in 73 of 74 games. Goodness gracious.

In fact, I'll go one step further. I believe that if I had the choice between the two, I'd tell you that someone will hit .400 in a season before anyone hits in 56 straight games. Heck, I think you'll see elephants rain down with beach ball sized hail before someone hits in 56 straight games. Ironically, 1941 was the last year .400 was reached, also -- by Ted Williams, who didn't win the MVP Award. Reason? DiMaggio and his streak -- and his pennant-winning teammates.

So you can stop all the claptrap about who has the best chance to clip the Clipper. It ain't gonna happen.

Just a hunch.

(you can vote on whether you agree with me, in the latest WHYGJG poll, elsewhere on this page)


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