7/16/41=56

7/16/41=56
When we think of records that seem to be unbreakable, one invariably always comes up. That would be the 56-game hitting streak of Joe DiMaggio. On July 16, 1941, Joltin’ Joe extended his hitting streak to that magical number of 56 games…unbelievable. So unbelievable that in that same year, there was s song (Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown, sung by Betty Bonney) written about it. Since that time, there have been many noble tries to eclipse that mark, but in reality no one has really come close. I remember watching Pete Rose take a hitting streak to 44-games in 1978. It was enthralling stuff to a 14 year-old baseball infatuated teenager. My friends and I used to watch this event unfold on a daily basis, and we were disappointed when it ended in August 1st of that season.
Of course, this has got me thinking. What other MLB records are ‘untouchable’? Before McGuire / Sosa, it was thought that the home run records of Babe Ruth (60 in 154 games) or Roger Maris (61 in 162 games) was unbreakable. Well, WRONG!!! In the summer of 1998, Mark McGuire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs gave us an unbelievable fireworks show, with BOTH of them eclipsing Ruth and Maris. In fact, between Mark and Sammy, they would surpass the 60 or 61 home run mark 5 more times. This would stand as the gold standard of slugging until 2001, when Barry Bonds hit 73 dingers. Of course, now I have to ask if the 73* mark will ever be broken…
Let’s give the pitchers some love also. The modern era (post-1900) record for strikeouts is 383, set in 1973 by one Nolan Ryan. A close second is the 382 K’s by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Randy ‘Big Unit’ Johnson came close in 2001 with 372, and there have been several other worthy mentions, but in my humble opinion I don’t see anyone breaking Ryan’s mark. As good as Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner are, and as good as I think Jacob deGrom may become, breaking Ryan’s record is a tall order.
And now on to Mount Olympus. Lou Gehrig was considered to be the Iron Man. His 2,130 straight games played was thought to be unbreakable, until Cal Ripken Jr. did just that on the night of September 6th, 1995. Ripken became the all-time Iron Man. Ripken would go on to set the new consecutive game record at 2,632. I also do not ever see this record falling.
Whenever I think of records and how they are considered untouchable, I am reminded of one Roger Bannister. You may have heard of him. Roger Bannister is the first human being to ever break the 4-minute mile. On May 4th, 1954, Bannister accomplished what many experts considered to be a ‘physical impossibility’. It was believed that the human pulmonary and respiratory systems were simply incapable of supporting such an effort, and that the human heart would just explode. The experts were wrong, and since that historic day, the sub 4-minute mile is almost routine.
Oh. My original point. On this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio etched himself in the Mount Rushmore of baseball immortals with his 56-gamne hitting streak. Many have tried to equal it. All have failed. It is a record that I do not see ever being broken.

Joltin' Joe DiMaggio

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

MLB…Have We Opened Pandora’s Box?

The other day, the Boston Red Sox won the courtship of young Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. The Red Sox have signed Moncada for a staggering $31.5M dollars, which after the MLB penalty for going over their foreign player exception, will cost them $63M dollars. That is a princely sum of money for a kid who has never played one inning, even the minor league system, here in the United States…
I had asked a few weeks ago if the thaw in the frosty diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba might lead to the floodgates being flung open for Cuban prospects to be able to play in the United States? I can’t say for sure, but even though players have been trickling in for the past few years anyway, the answer is probably ‘yes’. Recently, players such as Yasiel Puig, Rusney Castillo, Yasmani Grandal, and several others have made their way on to the American baseball landscape, and I believe that there are many more to come. Historically, Cuban payers such as Minnie Minoso, Leo Cardenas, Sammy Sosa, and Luis Tiant come to mind…
According to Baseball Reference.com, there have been 61 Major League baseball players born in Japan, 15 were from South Korea, while number of players born in Cuba total 186. While the amount of players from Japan really has not seen a dramatic influx, and an uptick in Korean ballplayers has not happened yet, there could be a veritable tidal wave of Cuban players coming to the United States, and I do not necessarily think that this is a bad thing. If we want to keep MLB as the premier baseball product on the world stage, then we need to have the best players playing here. This has become a larger issue over the past few years, as baseball is being forsaken by young athletes today for football and basketball. I am hopeful that MLB initiatives like ‘RBI” (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) will be successful in bringing the young athletes back into the baseball fold. Until then, we will need to recruit from the best talent pools in the world, and among the best is on the island of Cuba. Yes, Puerto Rico, Central America, Korea, and Japan also have vast talent, but for now we are sticking with Cuba.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of Yoan Moncada. I wish him the best, and I think it will be very intriguing to see what happens with a potential influx of Cuban baseball talent on American baseball fields.