Thursday, October 20, 2011


The rambling, shifting, stream-of-consciousness syntax of Casey Stengel has filled thousands of newspaper and magazine pages with anecdotes amusing and wise, droll and banal, sometimes vulgar.
More than a million references to Number 37 exist on Google and Yahoo. He was on the cover of Time Magazine twice. And there are quite a books about him and his New York Yankees of the mid 20th century.
Like former president Harry S. Truman, Stengel hailed from Missouri and wandered in the wilderness before finally hitting his peak. Born July 30, 1890, he got a nickname a well earned nickname early on - - "King of the Grumblers."

In 1946, Stengel managed the Pacific Coast League Oakland Oaks to a second-place finish. In 1948, Casey and his "Nine Old Men" won the pennant. Del Webb, one of the three New York Yankee owners, offered the manager job to him on the recommendation of dour and businesslike General Manager George Weiss. Their friendship went back decades.
Stengel had a rap sheet going back to times with the Dodgers, Pirates, Phillies, Braves and Giants. It seemed he had been around baseball forever.
On October 12, 1948, six days after Yankee manager Bucky Harris was fired, the man whose greatest ambition once had been to be a left-handed dentist, was introduced as the new skipper of the Yankees. He presided over a crowded press conference and lavish luncheon at the posh 21 Club in Manhattan.
"Because I can make people laugh, some of you think I'm a damn fool," Casey told the assembled crowd. "But as player, coach and manager I have been around baseball for some thirty-five years. (He'd played in or managed over 5,000 games). I've watched some successful managers as John McGraw and Uncle Robbie work. I've learned a lot and picked up a few ideas of my own.
"I didn't get the job through friendship. The Yankees represent an investment of millions of dollars. They don't hand out jobs like this just because they like your company. I got the job because the people here think I can produce for them."
Heading back to California on the train after settling all his Yankee business, Casey told famed sports writer Grantland Rice: "I wonder how things will be next season, where I'll be a year from now."
"Casey Stengel," Hall of Fame broadcaster Curt Gowdy said, "was one of the funniest guys I ever met. Funny without trying to be funny. My first year broadcasting the Yankees was his first year as manager. I'll never forget, we went to a bar after a night game in Cleveland. He ordered a draft beer and knocked it down in one gulp. I said, 'Jeezus, Casey, why do you drink your beer so fast?' And Stengel said, 'I drink it like that ever since the accident.' I said, 'You were in an accident?' He said, 'Yeah, somebody knocked over my beer.'"
In spring training of 1949 Stengel told his Yankees: "I know nothing about the American League. You guys are big league ball players, and this year you will be on your own. I'm not even going to give you signs. You just play. This is my year to observe and find out what the American League is all about."
"It was a shock," Yankee star hurler Eddie Lopat said. "We thought we got us a clown. He never said too much of anything to anyone. It was a treat for him to be with us after all the donkey clubs he had. He didn't need notes. He knew what every hitter or pinch hitter could do against certain pitchers. He could make the moves."
"There was the Casey Stengel of the huge ego," Tony Kubek, who played for him, said. "There was the Casey Stengel of the public relations image. There was the Casey Stengel who could talk for hours on the long thirty six hours of train trips to Kansas City. There was the sensitive Casey Stengel. There was the Casey Stengel of the Yankee pride."
That rookie season for Stengel saw the Yankees devastated by injuries. The famous Charlie Keller-Joe DiMaggio-Tommy Henrich outfield was never in place. Keller missed the whole season. DiMaggio had a banged up heel and did not play until June 28. Little star shortstop Phil Rizzuto was out a lot.
Stengel coped. Stengel planned. Relying on players like Cliff Mapes, Dick Kryhoski, and Fenton Mole and other non-prime time performers, juggling, mixing and matching, patching game by game, Casey managed to manage it all.
The Yankees of Casey Stengel marched to the first of five straight world championships in 1949. Savoring the moment and the 5-3 pennant- clinching triumph, Casey screamed out in the locker room: "Fellas, I want to thank you all for going to all the trouble to do this for me. I want to thank all for giving me the greatest thrill of my life, And to think they pay me for managing so great a bunch of guys."
That first season Casey Stengel put his stamp on everything Yankees. There had been a Yankee culture before. Now it was a Casey Stengel Yankee culture. It would be part of the franchise in 1949 and through Casey's tenure as manager. It would also be part of the Yankee tradition for decades to come.
The "Ol' Perfessor" with the gravelly voice became a Yankee institution. He was as famous, perhaps more famous than any of his stars. He became a national figure, a mixture of Santa Claus and Jimmy Durante and Groucho Marx, duck-walking his way on the baseball stage of his era. "When we won the World Series in 1949 and came to spring training the next year," Eddie Lopat recalled, "Stengel told us: 'Last year is past history. We never look back. We gotta go back and beat 'em again this year.'"
Stengel inherited a Yankee team many thought of as a powerhouse. Within three years he had re-tooled it creating a totally different type of club. Instead of featuring superstars at most positions, Casey structured his team around the trio of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford. The rest of the team was mainly role-players. Stengel pitted them against each other for playing time. "The fella I got on third is hitting pretty good," Stengel explained, " and I know he can make that throw, and if he don't make it that other fella I got coming up has shown me a lot, and if he can't, I have my guy and I know what he can do."
"We had guys on the bench who could play as good as the starters," said Eddie Lopat. "They hated to get on the bench because they knew they might not get back for three or four weeks or ever. "When we played the other teams," Lopat continued,"we never under-estimated them or ourselves. We played the Giants in the 1951 World Series. We were told by the newspapermen that the Giants would run us off the field, that they were hot and they had won all those games down the stretch. Casey's attitude was our attitude. They would have to run us off the field, but not in the newspapers.
"In 1949," Lopat continued, "we played the Dodgers in the Series. We knew they were young fellows without that much experience and we could beat them. In 1952, however, we knew they were now a tough club, but we were prepared."
"Case," former slugger Bill Skowron mused, "would leave us alone to get in shape in spring training. But when those last ten days of spring training came around you knew you had to be better ready to play."
Stengelisms abounded: "I was the best manager I ever saw, but I tell people that to shut them up quickly and because I also believe it. But John McGraw was an enjoyable man, too."
"Make 'em pay. Make 'em pay you a thousand dollars. Don't go help those people with their shows for coffee-and-cake money. You're the Yankees--the best. Make 'em pay you high." -Casey Stengel In the dozen years he managed the Yanks when the team was home, Stengel lived with his wife Edna at the swanky Essex House in Manhattan. The love of his life, Edna was a former silent screen star, a high-fashion dresser who picked out her husband's clothes. The tips Stengel gave at the Essex House were over the top because as Casey said:"I got so much money I don't know what to do with it."
Off season, the big house in Glendale, California was the site of happening times for Edna's nieces and nephews and -- since Casey and Edna had no children of their own -- for Yankee players and their wives and children. At times there were 50 to 75 children "It was real Yankee family back then," Yogi Berra said. "Casey and Edna were like a father and mother to us all."
The talent just gushed to the Yankees in those Stengel years from the farm system or through trades: Jerry Coleman and Gene Woodling in 1949, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin in 1950, Tom Morgan, Gil McDougald, Bob Cerv and Mickey Mantle in 1951, Andy Carey and Ewell Blackwell in 1952, Bill Skowron, Enos Slaughter and Bob Grim in 1954, Johnny Kucks, Elston Howard. Don Larsen, Bob Turley, Bobby Richardson, Elston Howard and Tom Sturdivant in 1955. Ralph Terry came in 1956 and Tony Kubek came along in 1957. In 1958, Ryne Duren, Clete Boyer in 1959 and Roger Maris in 1960.
"I was astonished at the atmosphere on the team when I joined the Yankees in 1957 along with Bobby Richardson," Tony Kubek said. "Jerry Coleman and Gil McDougald went out of their way to help us and we were to ultimately take their jobs. It was typical of everyone helping the helping the team, the atmosphere that Casey Stengel put in place."
Stengel stoked the fierce competition for jobs. Players were trained not to be complacent, to do whatever Casey asked for the good of the team. Loyalty to the organization, pride in being a New York Yankee were part of the package. The almost annual certainty of a postseason check was also something very nice to count on - -a sort of bonus for being one of Casey Stengel's Yankees. Left-handed hitting Gene Woodling and right-handed hitting Hank Bauer shared outfield duties. "We didn't like it," Bauer said. "But you couldn't complain too much - - we walked into the bank every October."
When Elston Howard became a Yankee in 1955, Casey joked: "When I finally get me a nigger, I got one who can't run." It was a reference to Howard's slow foot speed and how long it took the team to have a black player ­ eight years after Jackie Robinson had broken the color line. Casey and Robinson got into quite a few verbal altercations over the Yankee tardiness in integrating their roster. The two did not like each other. But the old man had a genuine affection for the stolid, reserved, and talented Howard.
In vintage Stengelese the skipper paid tribute to Howard: "He deserves credit and where would I be without him? Phew! He can give me a job in the outfield and he can catch, too. Good kid, too. He's good."
For most big league teams, the rhythm of the rotation was sacred. For Stengel, it was his call. The Big Four: Whitey Ford, Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds, and Ed Lopat, were all used in relief if there was a need or if Casey felt it was the right thing to do.
"Sure he wasn't that young," Skowron said. "But he knew and we knew what we had to do. He'd leave us alone when we were winning. He'd holler 'butcher boy' and 'don't swing too hard at ground balls' and 'don't beat yourselves.' But when he saw us making mistakes, he'd get excited and do some yelling."
The Yankees took the 1958 pennant by ten games. The l959 Yankees finished in third place - their low point in Stengel's time as manager. There were some who thought it was the beginning of the end. Nearing 70, impatient, Casey made moves in games that seemed highly unorthodox even for him.
But in l960 in a tough pennant race, the Ol'' Professor rallied the Yankees to another flag. But Bill Mazeroski's walk off homer gave the world championship to Pittsburgh.
Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb, who had wanted to get rid of Stengel for several years, used the loss to the Pirates as an excuse. Casey was fired. Actually, he was forced out as manager by a mandatory retirement age of 65 - -just for him.
"I'm just sorry Casey isn't fifty years old .... It's best for the future to make a change," Topping said. "Casey's writers," members of the New York Baseball Writers Association passed around a petition exhorting him not to retire.
"It was wonderful of them," the outgoing manager said," but I've been here twelve years and when a feller stays too long in one place he gets a lot of people mad at him and gets mad at a lot of people when they blame him for blowing tight games."
Later, in a sarcastic and stinging voice, he told dozens of reporters: "I commenced winning pennants when I got here. But I didn't commence getting any younger. They told me that my services were no longer desired because they wanted to put in a youth movement as an advance way of keeping the club going. The trick is growing up without growing old. Most guys are dead at the present time anyway and you could look it up. I'll never make the mistake of being seventy years old again."
Between the many hirings (as most know he surfaced again as pilot of the hapless Mets) and the firings, there is the amazing, amusing, arresting story of Charles Dillon Stengel, a man never at a loss for words.
"I was too old when I began," the crazy as a fox Stengel said, "I began playing in 1910 in some league that didn't even last out the season. I told Mickey Mantle one time how I used to do something. He looked at me like I was crazy and asked me if I played. What the hell do you think, I said, that I was born here on this bench as an old manager?
I started managing in 1925 and quit in 1965. I guess I know about managers and managing. What the hell is it but telling the umpire who is gonna play and then watching them play. The best thing to do is to have players who can hit right-handed and left-handed and hit farther one way and father sometimes the other way and run like the wind.
The dozen years Casey ran the Yankees saw the team cop 10 pennants and seven World Series. It was the greatest run by any manager in the history of the national pastime. Only once in his dozen seasons did his teams win fewer than 90 games; his Yankee career managing record was 1,149-696, a winning percentage of .623.
"There comes a time in every man's life," Casey said," and I've had plenty of them." He died on September 29, 1975 in Glendale, California.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remembering Joe DiMaggio's 56-Game Hitting Streak, 1941

By Dr Harvey Frommer

The 1941 Yankees were a loaded team. They would win 101 games, the American League pennant and the world championship. It was a team of stars--solid outfielders Charlie Keller and Tommy Henrich, rookie shortstop Phil Rizzuto, top second baseman Joe Gordon, rounded out by talented pitchers like Rud Ruffing and Lefty Gomez. But the star of stars was the man they called "the Yankee Clipper," age 26, in his sixth season with the Bronx Bombers.

Joseph Paul DiMaggio was one of nine children of a fisherman father who had emigrated from Sicily. It was all planned for Joe to become a fisherman like his father, but Joe could not abide the smell of fish and he often got seasick.

His real passion was playing baseball. He played the game with an almost poetical grace. He played when he was fatigued, when he was hurt, when it mattered a great deal and when it didn't matter at all.

He played in the "house that Ruth built," but it was his park now. Yankee Stadium was the first triple-decked structure of its kind--oval-shaped, a dull green, cathedral-like edifice where autumn's afternoon sun created strange mosaic designs on the center field grass where Joe DiMaggio held forth.

It was a park of pigeons, vast numbers of them, fat from the popcorn and peanuts. They lodged in the beams and rafters and fluttered about when the huge crowd rose to its feet cheering a big hit or a spectacular play. They had cheered countless times for Joseph Paul DiMaggio, their favorite.

That 1941 season, however, the Yankee did not get off to a quick start. Some even claimed he was slumping.

On May 15, a day when the United States was on the brink of war and people were startled to see newspaper photos of a London under siege by Nazi Luftwaffe bombers, Joe DiMaggio managed a single in four at-bats off stubby southpaw Eddie Smith of Chicago.

The hit was little noticed. What was noticed was the 13-1 pounding the White Sox gave the Yankees. The mighty Bronx bombers had now lost eight of their last 10 games and were six-and-a-half games behind league-leaders Cleveland.

Then on May 24 in his final at-bat against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, DiMaggio singled in two runs. By then he had a modest 10-game hitting streak.

On May 30 DiMaggio made three errors in the second game of a double header. That was bad news for the sure-handed center fielder. The good news was his fifth inning fly ball to right field was lost in the sun by Boston outfielder Pete Fox. The streak reached 16. DiMag was credited with a hit.

Singles in both games of a road doubleheader on June 1 against Al Milnar and then Mel Harder of the Indians moved the streak to 18. It was at 19 the next day, the day Lou Gehrig died. It was a sad day for the New York Yankees.

The American League record set by George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns of 41 straight seemed unreachable. But there were beginnings of speculation in the newspapers and on the radio. "That's when I became conscious of the streak," he later told friends, "although I didn't think too much about it."

Newspaper and radio coverage began to dramatize what Joe was doing. Most games back then were played in the afternoon, and radio announcers would routinely interrupt programs with the news of the Yankee Clipper's progress. "The streak is alive! The streak is alive!" announcers shouted.

Day and night radio disc jockeys played the Les Brown and his Band of Renown's recording of "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio."

"Who started baseball's famous streak...that's got us all aglow...he's just a man and not a freak...Jolting Joe DiMaggio...Joe, Joe, DiMaggio...we want you on our side...from coast to coast, that's all you hear...of Joe the one-man show...he's glorified the horsehide sphere...we want you on our side...he'll live in baseball's Hall of Fame...he got there blow-by-blow...our kids will tell their kids his name..."

He would step into the batter's box and stub his right toe into the dirt in back of his left heel. It was almost a dance step. His feet were spaced approximately four feet apart, with the weight of his frame on his left leg. Erect, almost in a military position, Joe Dee would hold his bat at the end and poise it on his right shoulder--a rifle at the ready. He would look at the pitcher from deep in the batter's box and assume a stance that almost crowded the plate. He was ready.

On June 17 at Yankee Stadium official scorer Dan Daniel of the New York World-Telegram, a buddy of the Yankee Clipper, credited DiMaggio with a hit when his grounder bounced up and hit Chicago shortstop Luke Appling on the shoulder. There were those who claimed the White Sox infielder could have been charged with an error. Several times during the streak there were questioned of rulings of official scorers. But the streak continued. With DiMaggio having hit in 30 straight games, the George Sisler American League record of 41 now seemed tantalizingly within reach. And so did the "Wee Willie" Keeler major league mark of 44.

The 1941 season moved on. War news was everywhere. So was the drama of Joe DiMaggio's relentless march to the record. At Yankee Stadium, at Comiskey Park, at Briggs Stadium, at all the ballparks in the eight team American League circuit that Joe knew so well, the Yankee Clipper kept it going.

Dom DiMaggio: "Despite their own personal rivalry Ted Williams rooted for my brother Joe. They had great admiration for each other. As a great hitter Ted could appreciate what Joe was doing. It was Ted, playing left field for our team at Fenway Park, who would receive info from the scoreboard operator about the streak. And we would yell out to me in center "Joe's got another hit."

It was Yankees vs. Senators on the 29th of June. A DiMaggio single off Washington knuckle-baller Dutch Leonard in the first game of a doubleheader moved the streak to 41. A seventh-inning single off Walt Masterson in the second game set a new record: 42.

Armed with the new record, the taciturn DiMaggio had become America's most famous athlete. Fame's relentless glare was solidly focused on him. Pestered by the media, ogled by fans, respected even more by teammates and opponents, he tried to take it all in stride, although at times it was painful for the reserved star.

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, ancient rivals, were at it again on a cloudy July 1 doubleheader at the Stadium before 52,832. DiMag paced a Yankee doubleheader sweep. In the first game he stroked two hits off Mike Ryba.

The first hit was questionable--a grounder in the fourth to Jim Tabor. The third baseman feeling the pressure of the consecutive game hitting streak on the line, rushed his throw to first base and DiMaggio wound up on second base. A hit? An error? Dan Daniel in the crowded stadium press box raised his right arm, signaling "hit." The huge and partisan crowd roared and applauded.

The second game was called because of rain after five innings, but DiMaggio got on the board again stroking a first-inning single, tying Keeler's 43-year-old major league mark of 44.

There were 8,682 in attendance at the Stadium the next day sweltering in the 95 degree heat and horrible humidity. They were there to see their beloved DiMag set the major league record of hitting in the most consecutive games. The starting pitcher for the Red Sox was supposed to have been veteran star Lefty Grove. He was on record as determined to end the streak. The oppressive heat, however, made Boston decide to start talented rookie Heber (Dick) Newsome.

Before the game started the head of American League umpires Tom Connolly met with DiMaggio near the Yankee clubhouse. The lively Irishman had known "Wee Willie" Keeler. "Boy, Joe, I hope you do it," he said. "If you do you will be breaking the record of the finest fellow who ever walked and who never said a mean thing about anyone in his life. Good luck to you."

The smell of cigarette smoke, the sounds of pigeons fluttering their wings scurrying for leftover food, and the hawking cries of vendors were backdrop for DiMaggio's quest that New York summer day at the Stadium.

DiMaggio's first at-bat resulted in a long drive that was run down by outfielder Stan Spence who made a leaping catch. The crowd groaned.

In his second at bat, DiMag got all of the ball, slugging it to deep center field. Off with the crack of his brother's bat, bespectacled Dom DiMaggio racing at top speed snared the ball and robbed his brother of an extra base hit.

"It was a great catch, "Joe recalled after the game. "It was one of the best Dom ever made, but at that moment the only thing on my mind was the temptation to withdraw the dinner invitation I had extended to my brother."

Knowing he could take no chances, Joe stepped into the batter's box for his third at bat. Two Yankee runners were on base. The count 2-1. The pitch. Home run--the 15th of the streak, into the seats in lower left field. Yankee Stadium rocked. Screaming fans yelled his name. Even guys in the press box applauded. Joe savored the moment and the record--hitting in 45 straight baseball games.

It seemed that he took even longer, loping strides longer than usual as he ran out the home run, tipping his cap to cheering fans. He touched home plate and bounded into the dugout where he was swallowed up by swarming teammates, happy for him, realizing they, too, were part of baseball history.

The Yankees won the game, 8-4; Lefty Gomez moved his record to 6-3 and recorded his fifth save. The man of the hour, some would say of the season, sat in front of his locker, sipping a beer, smoking a cigarette. He was sometimes moody, sometimes testy. Now he was relaxed as reporters gathered around.

"I don't know how far I can go," DiMaggio said, "but I'm not going to worry about it now. I'm glad it's over. It got to be quite a strain over the last 10 days. Now I can go back to swinging at good balls. I was swinging at some bad pitches so I wouldn't be walked. The pressure has been tough off the field as on it."

"It was a great tribute to me, and I appreciated it but it had its drawbacks, too. I got so much fan mail. There was some kind of good luck charm in every letter that I had to turn it over to the Yankee front office."

That night the brothers DiMaggio dined on steak and spaghetti.

Dom DiMaggio: "I told him, you know Joe, I could not have gone another inch for the ball you hit that I caught. But I am glad you have the record"

The streak continued when DiMag singled on July 5, making it 46 straight. The next day the honed in Yank racked up six hits in a doubleheader. Forty-eight!

A week later on July 8th, the All-Star Game was played at Detroit's Briggs Stadium. DiMag batted third in the powerful American League lineup ahead of Ted Williams. The Yankee Clipper's bat still had magic in it. "I doubled," he smiled remembering the time, "and (brother) Dom drove me in with a single."

The streak moved to mid-July. Many baseball fans stayed up past their regular bed times to learn if the elegant Yankee was still streaking. Radio announcers described to a sometimes unbelieving audience how Hitler's armies moved deeper and deeper into Russia. They also described the drama of how the great DiMaggio managed to keep the consecutive game hits moving forward.

The 16th of July saw the Yankees in Cleveland for the start of a series with the Indians at League Park II that seated 30,000. This day only 15,000 fans were on hand. Stroking a first-inning single off Al Milnar and two more hits later in the game, Joe Di moved the streak to 56. The sparse partisan Cleveland crowd gave him a thunderous ovation.

The management of the Indians had decided to schedule the next game at night at Municipal Stadium, a mammoth facility that could seat accommodate more than 78,000.

That Thursday July 17, 1941, DiMag and his buddy Lefty Gomez, scheduled to start for the Yankees, headed in a cab to the vast park for the night game. They stopped at a traffic light. The cabby had recognized DiMaggio and turned around: "I've got a feeling that if you don't get a hit your first time up tonight, they're going to stop you," he said.

"Who the hell are you?" an enraged Gomez snapped at the cabby. "What are you trying to do, jinx him?" DiMaggio said nothing.

In the streets outside the Stadium there was a carnival-like atmosphere, a lot of hustle and bustle, hawking of souvenirs. Sidewalks were clogged with Cleveland and Yankees fans anxious for the game to start. A large part of the gigantic crowd of 67,463, the largest night game attendance to that point in time, began filing in to the 10-year-old Stadium. Forty thousand had purchased their tickets long in advance. The bleacher seats were occupied very early. They majority of the huge throng had come see if "Joltin' Joe" could work his magic again.

It had rained earlier in the day. At game time a mist rolled in from Lake Erie. Walking the field, the Yankee star knew that with the ground still wet it might be a tougher run down the first base line. Mud stuck to his spikes.

Wearing his baggy road grays, DiMag stepped into the batter's box for his first at bat against veteran southpaw Al Smith. One man out. The Yankees led 1­0. Tommy Henrich was on second base. The first pitch was a fastball, high and away. The Yankee slugger slashed the next pitch hard past the third base bag. Playing deep, protecting the line, backhanding the ball, Ken Keltner fired to first. Out on a close play. DiMaggio showed no emotion.

In the fourth inning Smith walked DiMaggio with a curveball that broke inside. The huge crowd booed, displeased.

Honed in, the Yankee star came to bat in the seventh, lusting to extend his streak. Almost deafening was the continuous roar in the huge ballpark. Yet, the shouts of "C'mon, Joe!" and "You can do it!" could be heard over the bedlam. DiMaggio, perhaps over-anxious, lashed out at the first pitch curveball. Another shot to Keltner at third. Another backhanded play. Another close play at first base. Again, Joe showed no emotion.

With one out and the Yankees leading, 4-1, a spent Smith walked Tommy Henrich to load the bases. DiMaggio was next. Smith was done. Right-hander Jim Bagby Jr. took over. He ran the count to two balls, one strike. Some said DiMag swung at ball three, a low fastball. A grounder to shortstop Lou Boudreau that seemed to hit something in the grass and jumped up. Boudreau did not panic. Gloving the ball, he shuffled it to second baseman Ray Mack. The step on second, the throw to first. Double play.

The graceful DiMaggio passed first base and continued his run into shallow center field. In full stride, he bent down, lifted his glove off the grass. Then he calmly assumed his fielding position for the top of the eighth inning. The game still had to be played out.

Joe DiMaggio had faced types of pitchers during the streak. All hungered to be the one to stop him. He faced many top-draw hurlers including four future Hall of Famers: Bob Feller of Cleveland, Hal Newhouser of Detroit, Ted Lyons of the White Sox and Lefty Grove of the Red Sox.

"You'll start another one tomorrow," said Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy, his arm around the center fielder in the visitors' clubhouse.

At game's end Ken Keltner was escorted by police out of the ballpark for his own safety. Joe Di and Phil Rizzuto waited for the crowd to thin out before they walked through the mist back to the Cleveland Hotel. The Yankee shortstop headed to his room. The Yankee Clipper wound up in the bar.

It was remarkable--a hit every game for two months, from May 15 through July 16, 1941 in Yankee wins and defeats, in games played in the daytime and at night. Single games, doubleheaders, unimportant games and ones that counted--Joe DiMaggio was locked in for 56 straight.

Then incredibly, with the streak over, DiMaggio began a new one.

He hit in 16 consecutive games--giving him the distinction of having hit safely in 72 of 73 games that 1941 season.

Joseph Paul DiMaggio would play on until 1951, his 13th seasons as a proud Yankee. He never came close to the record streak again.

There are many who say it is the one baseball record that will never be broken.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Sports Bookshelf – Five for the fall -- “The Big Show,” “Fenway 1912,” and More . . .

The variety and quality of books on sports keeps on coming. Some are sac flies, others are bunt singles, and still others could be considered double, triples or home runs. You pay your money and make your choice as to how you might classify the following lineup of books for fall 2011.

With the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park looming in 2012, all manner of books will be on the market to commemorate the occasion. (Full disclosure) Mine is already out there, Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of Red Sox Nation. Now on the shelves is Glen Stout’s Fenway 1912 (HMH, $26.00, 391 pages). Stout’s work traces as its sub-title proclaims: “the Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway’s Remarkable First Year.” For Sox fans, for baseball fans and also history buffs - - this terrific tome is a keeper. We are there amidst the construction, in the dugout, in the dog days of a long ago Boston summer, in the chill of autumn and the glory of brand new Fenway experiencing its first world championship.

Another work that celebrates baseball’s storied past is “The Big Show” by Charles M. Conlon and Constance McCabe, (Abrams, $35.00, 198 pages). The book contains the stunning photography of the famed Charles M. Conlon who was behind the camera from 1904 to 1942. Prolific, driven, a baseball aficionado, he concentrated his remarkable talents in the main creating revealing photographic portraits of figures from that time. We are there with Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Joe DiMaggio and so many others, the famous and the not well known. The book is graced by an
eloquent and insightful foreword from the great Roger Kahn.

For those of a certain age “the shot heard round the world” still stays. It certainly stays with Ralph Branca who in his eighth big league seasons as a Dodger pitcher on October 3, 1951 served up the pitch that Bobby Thomson hammered. It resulted in doom and gloom in Brooklyn. It gave the Giants the National League pennant. For fans of the team that played at the old Polo Grounds, that was one of their most memorable baseball moments. It is an oft told story, one with many angles. A Moment in Time by Branca with David Ritz (Scribner, $25.00, 233 pages) possesses no new baseball revelations, but it is told in a sincere manner replaying what Brooklyn Dodgers fans called: “Dat Day.” Branca does reveal that his mother (who had 17 children) was born Jewish. She converted to Catholicism. Now 85, Branca claims he only recently learned this. “She never mentioned this to us,” he writes, “but it may explain my extraordinarily deep love of Jewish people.”
The busy Stout also is the Series Editor of “The Best American Sports Stories” (HMH, $14.95, 350 pages, paper). Selected by Jane Leavy, the book features fiction and nonfiction pieces from a variety of sources. This issue includes Selena Roberts, David Dobbs, Sally Jenkins and others.

The Orvis Guide to Small Stream Fishing by Tom Rosenbauer (Universe, Rizzoli, $35.00, 208 pages) is a work aimed at a large but select readership audience. Nevertheless, it also will appeal to the general public for the wealth of information imparted by the author on fly fishing in small streams. At once a guide, a beautiful picture book, a primer on the art and science of small stream fishing, this is the kind of book to savor. Categories like “Reading the Water,” “Care and Ethics,” “A Philosophy of Small-Stream Casting” and others are instructional as well as aesthetic.

So there you have it – “Five for the fall.”