Joe DiMaggio’s Streak, Game 5: Joe’s Arm and Germany’s Bismarck Hot Topics

The Bismarck, 1941. The largest battleship ever built.

The Bismarck, 1941. The largest battleship ever built.

When Joe DiMaggio went to spring training in 1941, there was some concern that his throwing arm was giving him trouble, even affecting his batting.


Columnists and beat writers in New York were quick to put the microscope on DiMaggio. In each of his previous three campaigns, Joltin’ Joe had been injured. They were niggling injuries—most of which DiMaggio played through—but his apparently aching arm became a topic of discussion early on.

A columnist in the World-Telegram was so concerned he pointed out that after hitting .381 in 1939, DiMaggio “fell” to .352 in 1940.

“For some reason Guiseppe has been kept in rather low spirit because of his arm troubles. He had most disturbing visions and his hitting suffered.”

Such was New York and the white-hot heat seven daily newspapers could keep on a story or a person, each publication looking for an angle…accurate or not.

The SOS from the World-Telegram came on the last day of March—the same day that the Yankee franchise hit a home run, three doubles and raised his spring average to .429 in a 16-4 shellacking of the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League.

Later, on May 19, 1941, DiMaggio was hitting .328. Top 10 in the American League, but he was doing it in the most demanding sports city on the planet. For the fans, .328 didn’t cut it—and it was certainly not good enough for scribes of the day. Wasn’t there a guy in Boston hitting over .400?

When the Yankees dropped a 5-1 decision to the lowly St. Louis Browns at Yankee Stadium that day, DiMaggio’s double was one of only four New York hits. At 16-17, the Yanks had fallen to fourth place and trailed front-running Cleveland by 6.5 games.

But there was worse news that day: Germany had just launched the Bismarck, a dreadnought that was the largest battleship ever built. With its guardian angel Prinz Eugen nearby, the Bismarck was en route to shut off the America-to-England shipping lanes.

For some New Yorkers, the Yankee record was the least of their worries. Greater United States involvement in World War II was at hand.

Read More About The Streak: Game 6


  1. you must elaborate on Cleveland’s stopping the Streak. They did NOT pitch to Joe. They threw junk balls, probably high and inside so would go near third base which was loaded in anticipation. Joe, wanting to keep the streak alive would swing at balls because he was not being “pitched”. Baltimore embarrassed the Indians the next game by announcing (never done before?) that they were going “to pitch” to Joe still even though the Streak was over. Investigate!!! Indians will likely not cooperate but there was a book by a Cleveland Sports Writer about the Indians many years ago which clarified this. When Joe died, the “curse” on Cleveland Indians began. Will never end until some sort of apology, reparations to baseball history occurs….

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