During the 1941 baseball season, the New York Yankees won the 1941 pennant by 17 games over Boston, but the pennant race was overshadowed by the personal heroics of two superstars. New York's American League MVP Joe DiMaggio put together a record 56-game hitting streak, and Boston's Ted Williams batted .406.

Joe DiMaggio hit safely in a record 56 consecutive games (summer 1941).
In the summer of 1941,
Joe DiMaggio hit safely in
a record 56 consecutive
games.

DiMaggio, who had shown a predilection for hitting streaks since his minor league days, started his 1941 streak with a hit against the White Sox on May 15. This was ironic because DiMaggio struggled against Chicago pitching throughout the season. Twice he prolonged the streak with bad-hop singles off Sox shortstop Luke Appling, and once with an infield dribbler in front of Sox third baseman Bob Kennedy.

DiMaggio faced White Sox righty Johnny Rigney four times during the streak and
went 1-for-3, 1-for-5, 1-for-4, and 1-for-3. DiMaggio hit half of his 30 homers and
drove in 55 runs during the streak to lift the Yankees out of a team slump and into the driver's seat in the 1941 race. On July 2, a DiMaggio homer broke Wee Willie Keeler's 44-year-old major league hitting-streak record of 44. And on July 17, his streak was ended at 56 by two terrific back-handed stops by Indians third baseman Ken Keltner.

DiMaggio finished the season third in the American League in batting at .357, first in RBI with 125, second in doubles with 43, and fourth in home runs. But his season was dwarfed -- statistically, at least -- by that of Williams, who led him in runs 135 to 122, homers 37 to 30, on-base average .551 to .440, and slugging average .735 to .643. Williams also batted .406, the highest batting average in either league since Rogers Hornsby's .424 in 1924.

To put Williams's feat in perspective, consider that DiMaggio hit .409 during his hitting streak -- just three points higher than Williams's season mark. At one point in June, Williams was hitting .436 but then began to fade. On the final day of the season, he found himself at .3995 -- technically .400 by baseball scoring rules. Nevertheless, Williams refused to play it safe and played both ends of a doubleheader. He went 6-for-8.

In another historical moment, 41-year-old Red Sox pitcher Lefty Grove won his 300th game and promptly retired with a 300-141 lifetime record. Grove had a 3.06 career ERA compiled exclusively in hitters' parks and in a hitter's era. He won an unapproachable nine ERA titles and led the league in strikeouts seven times in a row.

In the National League, Brooklyn won by 2-1/2 games over St. Louis in a tight race that was decided by the Dodgers' two hitting heroes. MVP Dolph Camilli led the league with 34 homers and 120 RBI, and rookie Pete Reiser hit a National League-high .343, scored 117 runs, and cracked 39 doubles. Dodgers Whitlow Wyatt and Kirby Higbe tied for the National League lead in wins with 22, and Wyatt was second in ERA to the Reds' Elmer Riddle at 2.34.

Ironically, the Dodgers' roster was loaded with ex-Cardinals, including Ducky Medwick, manager Leo Durocher, and catcher Mickey Owen. Reiser was plucked from the St. Louis farm system.

The 1941 Dodgers-Yankees World Series looked like it was headed for at least six games. New York was leading two games to one, and Brooklyn's Hugh Casey took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning of game four. With two outs and nobody on, he struck out Tommy Henrich, seemingly ending the game. However, Owen let the ball get by him, and Henrich reached first safely.

The Dodgers had cracked the door open and the Yankees proceeded to kick it in. DiMaggio singled, Charlie Keller doubled, Bill Dickey walked, and Joe Gordon doubled to win the game 7-4. The next day, the Yankees clinched the Series 3-1 on Tiny Bonham's four-hitter.

Check out the next page for some of the headlines from the 1941 baseball season.

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1941 Baseball Season Headlines

Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams took their games to a whole new level during the 1941 baseball season. Read about some of the headlines from the year below.

1941 Brooklyn Dodger Fans Disappointed

The Bums lost all three of their home meetings to the Yankees, dropping the 1941 World Series in five games. Dodger fans would have to "wait 'til next year."

Ted Williams Hits Highs

Although fans still talk about the .406 average Ted Williams tallied in 1941, he boasted other stats that were equally phenomenal. His .551 on-base percentage was the greatest until 2002. He also slugged .735.

Hugh Casey Saves Seven

Hugh Casey was the National League's premier relief pitcher both before and after World War II. Casey won 14 games (seven saves) in 1941. After excelling in the 1947 World Series, he lost his effectiveness and was in the minors by 1950. The following summer, when a return to the majors failed to materialize, Casey committed suicide.

1941 New York Yankees Win Championship

Rookie New York Yankees first baseman Johnny Sturm played every game in the 1941 World Series against Brooklyn but was not invited back after he hit .239 during the regular season. Also a rookie, Phil Rizzuto, lasted until 1956. Along with powerful hitting and excellent pitching, the Yankees set a major league record by turning 196 double plays.

Dolph Camilli Named National League MVP

Dolph Camilli won the 1941 National League MVP Award, leading the league with 34 homers and 120 RBI. Two of Camilli's Brooklyn teammates, Pete Reiser and Whit Wyatt, finished second and third in the balloting, and three other Dodgers were among the top 11 vote-getters. The Dodgers were quite potent. Brooklyn led the National League in runs (800), doubles (286), triples (69), homers (101), batting (.272), and slugging (.405). The pitching staff led the National League in ERA (3.14).

Pee Wee Reese Shines

Pee Wee Reese arrived in Brooklyn in 1940, the same season that Lou Boudreau first made his mark and a year before Phil Rizzuto came alive. In 1941, Reese tallied 136 hits and 46 RBI.

Find even more 1941 baseball season headlines in the next section.

To learn more about baseball see:

1941 Baseball Season Headlines

Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams took their games to a whole new level during the 1941 baseball season. Read about some of the headlines from the year below.

1941 Brooklyn Dodger Fans Disappointed

The Bums lost all three of their home meetings to the Yankees, dropping the 1941 World Series in five games. Dodger fans would have to "wait 'til next year."

Ted Williams Hits Highs

Although fans still talk about the .406 average Ted Williams tallied in 1941, he boasted other stats that were equally phenomenal. His .551 on-base percentage was the greatest until 2002. He also slugged .735.

Hugh Casey Saves Seven

Hugh Casey was the National League's premier relief pitcher both before and after World War II. Casey won 14 games (seven saves) in 1941. After excelling in the 1947 World Series, he lost his effectiveness and was in the minors by 1950. The following summer, when a return to the majors failed to materialize, Casey committed suicide.

1941 New York Yankees Win Championship

Rookie New York Yankees first baseman Johnny Sturm played every game in the 1941 World Series against Brooklyn but was not invited back after he hit .239 during the regular season. Also a rookie, Phil Rizzuto, lasted until 1956. Along with powerful hitting and excellent pitching, the Yankees set a major league record by turning 196 double plays.

Dolph Camilli Named National League MVP

Dolph Camilli won the 1941 National League MVP Award, leading the league with 34 homers and 120 RBI. Two of Camilli's Brooklyn teammates, Pete Reiser and Whit Wyatt, finished second and third in the balloting, and three other Dodgers were among the top 11 vote-getters. The Dodgers were quite potent. Brooklyn led the National League in runs (800), doubles (286), triples (69), homers (101), batting (.272), and slugging (.405). The pitching staff led the National League in ERA (3.14).

Pee Wee Reese Shines

Pee Wee Reese arrived in Brooklyn in 1940, the same season that Lou Boudreau first made his mark and a year before Phil Rizzuto came alive. In 1941, Reese tallied 136 hits and 46 RBI.

Find even more 1941 baseball season headlines in the next section. 

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More 1941 Baseball Season Headlines

Following are more headlines from the 1941 baseball season, including the passing of Lou Gehrig.

1941 Brooklyn Dodgers Win National League Pennant

A series of shrewd trades by 1941 Brooklyn Dodger's general manager Larry MacPhail made a pennant-winner out of a team that had finished seventh two years earlier. Second baseman Billy Herman was stolen from the Cubs for two utility infielders and $65,000.

Pete Reiser Gets Knocked Out

An all-too-familiar sight during the early 1940s was that of Pete Reiser being carried off the field on a stretcher. In one instance, he was the victim of a beaning, but he also frequently collided with outfield walls while chasing fly balls. Reiser led the National League in batting average (.343) in 1941.

Bob Feller Carries the Tribe

Thanks in large part to Bob Feller (25-13), Cleveland finished with a 75-79 record in 1941. The only club in the majors that was as disappointing in 1941 as Cleveland was the defending American League Champion Tigers, who tied the Tribe for fourth place.

Mickey Owen's Flub Loses Game

The most famous passed ball in history: Tommy Henrich of the Yankees swung for the third strike that would have ended the fourth game of the 1941 World Series -- had the pitch not eluded Mickey Owen. Given unexpected life, the Yankees tallied four runs to win the game and forever immortalize the Dodgers catcher.

The Iron Horse is Laid to Rest

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were two great teammates, friends, and fellow admirers for many years. After Ruth made the mistake in 1933 of mildly criticizing Gehrig's mother, however, the pair never spoke to one another again. Ironically, both of these great heroes died young. Gehrig, nicknamed "The Iron Horse," died at the tender age of 37. Ruth, nicknamed "The Sultan of Swat," never made it to his 54th birthday. Ruth passed away in August of 1948.

Dick Wakefield: First Bonus Baby

In 1941, a young Dick Wakefield inked a $52,000 contract with the Tigers, thus becoming baseball's first renowned bonus baby. Wakefield sparkled in his rookie season, 1943, when he led the American League in hits (200) and doubles (38), but he quickly fizzled out. Other bonus babies, namely pitchers Paul Pettit of the Pirates and Billy Joe Davidson of the Indians, were bigger busts. The two combined for one major league win.

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1941 Baseball Season Highlights

The 1941 baseball season was marked by the personal heroics of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, and Dick Wakefield became baseball's first bonus baby by signing a $52,000 contract with the Tigers.

Find more major highlights from the 1941 baseball season below.

  • The Yankees return to the top in American League and win by 17 games.
  • The Dodgers win their first National League flag since 1920.
  • The Yankees win the 1941 World Series in five games, but it's the most competitive five-game World Series in history.
  • The Dodgers lose game three of the 1941 World Series when Freddie Fitzsimmons leaves with a fractured kneecap after hurling seven scoreless innings.
  • The Dodgers lose game four on Mickey Owen's missed third strike in the ninth inning with two out.
  • Joe Gordon of the Yanks becomes the 1941 World Series hero, hitting .500 with five RBI.
  • Brooklyn's Dolph Camilli becomes the National League MVP.
  •  Joe DiMaggio wins the American League MVP.
  • DiMaggio strings together a major league record 56-game hitting streak.
  • Ted Williams hits .406 and remains the last major league player to hit .400.
  • Brooklyn's Pete Reiser, age 22, becomes the youngest in history to win National League bat crown.
  • Jimmie Foxx notches his 13th consecutive 100-RBI season to tie Gehrig's record.

    Lloyd Waner
    Lloyd Waner was a mere
    150 pounds and one of the
    fastest runners of his time.

  • Phils lose franchise record 111 games.
  • Yankees clinch the flag in an American League record 136 games.
  • Tigers give $52,000 to Dick Wakefield, which becomes the first of what will soon become a flurry of big-bucks bonus babies.
  • Williams hits three-run homer with two out in the ninth to give the American League a 7-5 win in the All-Star Game at Detroit.
  • Arky Vaughan becomes the first to hit two homers in an All-Star Game.
  • On March 8, Hugh Mulcahy of the Phils becomes the first major leaguer to be drafted in World War II.
  • Bob Feller tops the major league in wins with 25.
  • Feller's 343 innings pitched are most in major league since 1923.
  • Feller tops the major leagues again with 260 Ks and also leads the American League in shutouts with six.
  • Feller enlists in the Navy at the end of season.
  • Williams is batting .3995 on the last day of season; he closes with a 6-for-8 performance in doubleheader to finish at .406.
  • Cardinal Lon Warneke no-hits the Reds on August 30.
  • Lloyd Waner plays a National League record 77 straight games without striking out.
  • The Dodgers become the first team to wear plastic batting helmets after Pete Reiser and Pee Wee Reese are beaned.

Continue to the next page for even more 1941 baseball season highlights.

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