The 24,000 fans who went to Yankee Stadium on Thursday, June 26, 1941, were hoping to see Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak get extended to 38 games. Taking the field against the lowly St. Louis Browns, the Yankees would take their swings against right-hander Elden Auker.
Coming to bat in the second, DiMaggio flew out to the left-field; in the fourth, he reached on an error by shortstop Johnny Berardino, who, after retiring from baseball became an actor, becoming best known for playing Dr. Steve Hardy on the long-running soap opera “General Hospital”. In his third time up in the sixth, DiMaggio bounced out to third.
Meanwhile, Yankee starter Marius Russo was trying to steal the show as he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning with the Yankees leading 3-0. But his dreams would be dashed to bits when first baseman George McQuinn-who would help the Yankees win a World Series six years later-belted a one-out home run to put the Browns on the board. It would be the only hit Russo would surrender.
The game went to the bottom of the eighth, with the Yankees up 3-1. DiMaggio was scheduled to bat fourth, which meant someone needed to reach base to give “The Yankee Clipper” one more chance. With one out, third baseman Red Rolfe drew a walk, bringing Tommy Henrich to the plate.
Before getting into the box, Henrich went back to the dugout to ask manager Joe McCarthy to let him put down a sacrifice bunt. A by the book manager, McCarthy at first said no. Henrich explained that he feared that hitting into a double play would end DiMaggio’s streak in all likelihood since the Browns would have needed to score at least two runs to tie the game in the game.
After hearing Henrich’s reasoning, McCarthy gave his blessing, and Henrich put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Rolfe to second. This set the stage for DiMaggio to extend his hitting streak in his last at-bat. Auker delivered a pitch to DiMaggio’s liking, and Joe ripped a line drive that almost took third baseman, Harlond Clift, into left field.
Rolfe scampered home from second as DiMaggio raced into second with an RBI double to extend his hitting streak to 38 straight games as the Yankees went on to beat the Browns 4-1. All made possible because a by the book manager went against it.