The $10,000 Miss
On July 17, in Cleveland, the Indians’ Ken Keltner made two inspired catches of line drives hit by Joe DiMaggio, and the second catch stopped the Yankee center fielder’s hitting streak at 56 consecutive games. Americans had watched in mounting astonishment as DiMaggio passed George Sisler’s modern record of 41 straight games, then Wee Willie Keeler’s 1897 mark of 44. When the streak nearly died a week before against the St. Louis Browns—DiMaggio managed a single in his last at bat—the Browns’ pitcher had been asked why he hadn’t walked the Yankee star to enter the record books as the man who ended it. “That wouldn’t have been fair—to him or to me,” Bob Muncrief told reporters. “Hell, he’s the greatest player I ever saw.”
DiMaggio was hitting at a .406 clip when Keltner’s second catch killed the streak before a nighttime-record crowd. The Yankees’ shortstop, Phil Rizzuto, later recalled leaving the park with DiMaggio that night. Neither man spoke until DiMaggio smiled and said, “Do you know, if I got a hit tonight, I would have made ten thousand dollars? The Heinz 57 people were following me.” DiMaggio had left his wallet in the clubhouse. Rizzuto himself had eighteen dollars. “Let me have it,” DiMaggio told him as they walked toward a nearby bar. “You go on back to the hotel. I want to relax a bit.” Rizzuto left him alone to drink; the money was never again discussed.