Game 31: June 18, 1941

Early in the Wednesday afternoon game of June 18, 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s deceiving speed helped him leg out an undisputed infield hit against the White Sox. The Streak now stood at 31 games.

While journalists were still murmuring about whether or not Joltin’ Joe’s previous day’s hit off (over?) the shoulder (chest?) of shortstop Luke Appling was legitimate or not, the Yankees were trying to subdue this pesky Chicago club.

Trailing 3-2 into the bottom of the eighth, Sox pitcher Thornton Lee was trying to correct course after a two-game losing streak. He was dodging bullet after bullet (the Yankees would leave 10 men on base this day).

With one out and one on, DiMaggio came to the plate. Keep the ball away, Lee thought. The big lefty was tiring. Don’t give him anything to hit, he urged himself.

Taking a little walk behind the mound, Lee collected himself. New York’s horrid, humid summer months were at hand, and this steamy afternoon hinted at what was ahead come July. Sopping wet was Lee’s flannel uniform. The 10,000 or so in attendance were anxious.

DiMaggio had to go, one way or another, Lee knew. A free pass to Joe wouldn’t be the end of the world.

DiMaggio used to say the difference between him and Ted Williams as hitters was that the Boston outfielder “was willing to take his walks, regardless of score or situation…I always swung, trying to win ballgames.”

It didn’t have to be a strike for DiMaggio to work his magic.

Now would be a terrific time for a jolt from Joe.

Lee rocked and fired.

Another sphere, thrown with the intent to walk Joe, was too close to the Yankee Clipper’s reach. DiMaggio’s bat swiftly glided toward the pitch and sent a towering drive to right.

Sox fielder Taffy Wright had to jump on his horse. By accounts in Big Apple newspapers, the ball was headed into the stands. But Wright made a fine running catch, Red Rolfe scrambled back to first and Lee survived the next four outs to win, 3-2.

Lucky to reach on a scratch hit earlier, DiMaggio was “robbed” of the chance to win the game later.

DiMaggio said later in life, “I pretty much felt it all evened out on the streak.”

.com is the official and authorized Web site of Joe DiMaggio. During the 70th anniversary of DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, it is publishing “Reliving Joe DiMaggio’s Streak,” which follows the daily progress of Joltin’ Joe in 1941. Series Archive

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