Sixty–nine years ago today, Joe DiMaggio hit safely in his 56th consecutive game.
In the long history of baseball, no one else ever hit safely in 50 straight games, let alone 56, and darn few (five others, in fact) hit safely in 40 games in a row or more.
It seems like a record that may stand indefinitely — and it's ironic that this anniversary comes just a couple of days after the death of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. But if it hadn't been for DiMaggio, the record for the longest hitting streak would never belong to the Yankees. No matter how talented they were, no Yankee before or since DiMaggio's day — not Babe Ruth, not Lou Gehrig, not Mickey Mantle or Don Mattingly or Derek Jeter or A–Rod — ever had a streak of 30 straight games or more.
Streaks of that length are pretty rare, and longer streaks are even more uncommon. Only one, in fact — Pete Rose's 44–game hitting streak in 1978 — has occurred in my lifetime.
There have been some other pretty impressive streaks. Paul Molitor of the Milwaukee Brewers, for example, hit safely in 39 straight games in 1987. That year, incidentally, Robin Ventura hit safely in 58 games. But Ventura, who played for four different major league teams in his professional career, wasn't playing professional ball in 1987. He was playing for Oklahoma State University.
DiMaggio's streak has, justifiably, become the stuff of legend in nearly seven decades. One wonders if anyone will ever scale that mountain again.