Saturday, June 28, 2014

DiMag's streak bat raffled for 25c

A lucky fan in San Francisco won the bat with
which DiMaggio set a new consecutive-game
hitting streak in a 25c raffle.

What would be today be one of  the most valuable pieces of baseball memorabilia – the bat with which Joe DiMaggio set a new major league consecutive-game hitting streak – originally went to a fan for the price of a 25-cent raffle ticket.

I’m sure this has all been covered in one of the many books about the Yankee Clipper, but since I’m unlikely to ever read one of those – in my view he was an insufferable prick – it was news to me when I read the account in the July 17, 1941 issue of The Sporting News.

In an article headlined, “DiMag’s Bat Brings $1,678,” the paper reported,. . .

SAN FRANCISCO, Cal.—A Louisville Slugger bat that sells for $2 proved to be wood of gold here. The stick was the one with which Joe DiMaggio established his new major league batting record, and in a raffle, at 25 cents a chance, it netted $1,678 to the San Francisco branch of the United Service Organizations.
The precious bit of lumber, bringing new fame to a San Francisco born and bred player, was disposed of between games of a Sunday double-header at Seal Stadium, July 6. James Osborne of San Francisco is the new owner and the presentation was made by Miss Mary Beth Snyder, comely stewardess of United Airlines.

The bat was used by DiMaggio on June 29 when he hit safely in the second game of the double-header Washington in the 42nd game of what would become his likely unbreakable 56-game streak. That hit, and that bat, broke the previous major league mark of 41 games set by George Sisler in 1922.

In 1941 there were calls from the press
and fans for DiMaggio's number
to be changed to 56.
 Uniform switch to 56 proposed
 Just four days after DiMaggio’s hit streak ended, St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor John. E. Wray, suggested in remarks made to Yankees manager Joe McCarthy that DiMaggio adopt uniform number 56 in place of his familiar 5.

“Let’s add a 6 and make it 56,” Wray suggested. “That record he made is likely to stand longer than Joe will remain in baseball. And it will be a reminder of a truly great feat.”

Wray continued by saying, “That isn’t the whole of it. The 56 was earned in other ways. For instance, during that streak Joe drove in 56 runs. And he scored 56 runs himself.

“Think it over,” Wray concluded, “A 5 means nothing . . . a 56 puts DiMaggio right smack in the Hall of Fame, for all who read to remember.”

In the July 31 issue of The Sporting News, Yankees beat writer Dan Daniel in his “Over the Fence” column reported . . .

 Yankees Turn Down “56” Proposition
You’d be surprised how much pressure was brought to bear on the Yankees to change DiMaggio’s number from 5 to 56, to memorialize his great hitting streak. Letters and telegrams came in from all over.
            But Ed Barrow voted against the suggestion, Joe McCarthy seconded the motion. And then the player himself announced that he was opposed to the idea.
            “It would be like boasting, and I would hate to carry that number,” said Giuseppe.
            “It would be circus stuff,” said Barrow.
            “I don’t see any call for using that type of publicity in the serious business of winning a pennant,” said McCarthy. “DiMaggio put on a great streak and now it’s over.”
            Those who boosted the idea still think it was a good one and berate the Yankees for their hidebound methods.
            I am inclined to believe that turning down the stunt was sound, conservative business. The Yankees will have to pay high enough for that 56 when paying time comes around. They don’t want to keep reminding the player every day he puts on that monkey suit.

Daniel hit the nail on the head when he opined that the Yankees didn’t want to inflate DiMaggio’s demand for his next year’s contract. As it was, the Yankees had to bump him from an MLB-leading $37,500 in 1941 to $43,750 in 1942, a 16.67% increase.

New York baseball writers, however, indicated the Yankees profited aplenty on DiMaggio’s streak. They figured that burgeoning attendance at home generated at least $50,000 in increased ticket sales, not to mention a jump in their visiting-team take on the road.

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