Reliving Joe DiMaggio’s Streak, Game 4: May 18, 1941
Today’s sports fans are numbed by the avenues of information available.
The 6 o’clock news is stale two hours later. ESPN, Fox Sports, talk radio, the Internet, Twitter: For some, it’s a blur. For others an obsession.
But 71 years ago, telephones were tethered to the wall and television was a curiosity (demonstrated before incredulous onlookers at the World’s Fair only a year earlier).
Commercial radio had been in existence for two decades. But in 1941, no radio stations broadcast Yankees play-by-play.
Fans who were not at the ballpark had to wait for game results to be printed in the newspaper hours later—or the next day. Highlights were shown a week or more later in newsreels played between double features at movie houses.
The only sure way a Yankee fan could get in on the action during that ’41 season was by forking over 55 cents and warming a bleacher seat—or a buck for a box seat—in Yankee Stadium.
Yankees games had been broadcast on the radio before the 1941 season, although somewhat reluctantly. Team owners feared— to some extent rightfully so—that play-by-play broadcasts would diminish ticket sales.
But they also realized that broadcasts promoted the team for a solid two hours (or more) on the airwaves. Under that guarded curtain of ambivalence, Mel Allen began a streak of his own in 1939, a 25-year run as the voice of the Yankees on WABC radio.
But lack of sponsorship eliminated radio broadcasting throughout the 1941 season. The same fate befell New York Giants broadcasts that year.
The 30,109 fans who went to Yankee Stadium on Sunday, May 18, came out winners along with the Bronx Bombers. That was the beginning of a three-day homestand against the St. Louis Browns. Behind Lefty Gomez, the Yanks pummeled the hapless Browns, 12–2, delivering the third successive loss to St. Louis, kicking them into the American League basement.
Oh, and Joe DiMaggio. At the top of his game that day, Joltin’ Joe went 3-for-3 – including reaching on an interference call. His double drove in a run and he scored three times.
The Yanks, 16-16 at the end of the day, were tied with Boston in fourth, chasing Detroit, and 6 1/2 games behind Cleveland.