New York Yankees: Countdown to Opening Day #5
We’re creeping closer and closer. Today, we’re just five days away from New York Yankees baseball. The greatest Yankee to wear number five needs no introduction. Joe DiMaggio was assigned the number five with the expectation that he would be the next superstar. He was expected to follow Babe Ruth, 3, and Lou Gehrig, 4, and he did just that.
Joltin’ Joe made his debut with the New York Yankees in 1936, batting ahead of a guy named Lou Gehrig. He would immediately make an impact, finishing his rookie campaign batting .323 with 29 homers and 125 RBI. He earned his first of 13 All-Star selections that year, as well as his first of nine World Series titles.
DiMaggio followed up his rookie campaign with an MVP-caliber season in 1937. At just 22-years-old, DiMaggio led the league in homers, 46, and slugging percentage, .673. He would throw in a .346 average and 167 RBI and finished second in the MVP voting. His first MVP award would come just two seasons later. In 1939, he led the league in average at .381, hit 30 homers and knocked in 126 runs.[Milkins]
In 1941, DiMaggio did something that the game had never seen before, and hasn’t seen since. Starting on May 15th, DiMaggio would record a hit in 56 games. It’s considered one of the most unbreakable records in all of sports, and no one has even come close in the 76 years since. On top of the legendary record, he would also earn his second career MVP award.
As if being one of the game’s greatest players, DiMaggio also took the time to fight for his country. He spent three years, during his prime no less, serving the United States Army during World War II. He spent the majority of his enlistment playing baseball for the Seventh Army Air Force Team, but his presence provided a huge boost to military and national morale. He picked up right where he left off after returning to the Yankees in 1946. DiMaggio earned his third career MVP award and would go on to lead the Yankees to three consecutive World Series from 1949 to 1951.
DiMaggio is also involved in one of the most interesting “what ifs” in baseball. In 1947, Tom Yawkey, owner of the Boston Red Sox and Larry MacPhail, Yankees GM, verbally agreed to trade DiMaggio for Ted Williams. The deal would send DiMaggio and a young Yogi Berra to Boston in exchange for Williams. The addition of Berra was too much for the Yankees to give up, and the trade never came to fruition. Obviously, DiMaggio would go on to play four more All-Star seasons for the Yanks, and Berra would become a legend in his own right.
Joe DiMaggio is still considered one of the most complete players the game has ever seen. His consistency at the plate and flawlessness in the outfield made him one of the biggest contributors of all-time. His number six in pinstripes was retired by the Yankees, and DiMaggio was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.