Most players would consider entering an early September game hitting .287 with 24 home runs to be a pretty impressive season. But for Joseph Paul DiMaggio, those numbers were not up to the standard he’d set in his illustrious career. The 35-year-old center fielder, in his 12th major-league season, had hit below .305 only once, in 1946, the year he returned from World War II. The Yankee Clipper’s season hit a new low when New York dropped two games in Boston to start a 14-game road trip. Dan Daniel wrote in The Sporting News that DiMaggio “looked worse than ever before this season” and that “Once again he appeared tired and jaded.”1 Daniel wrote that DiMaggio struggled at the plate and in the field in Boston: “He did not hit, he dropped a fly ball and gave Boston two runs.”2 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle described DiMaggio as “often gloomy and reticent in the recent slump.”3 The Yankees left Boston and headed to the nation’s capital to continue their long road trip.
The Yankees entered the first game of their doubleheader at Griffith Stadium on September 10 well rested. The first game of the series had been rained out, and New York had a scheduled offday the day before that. Meanwhile, Detroit had taken a one-game lead over New York to sit atop the American League, while Boston had moved to within a half-game of the idle Yankees. New York tried to right the ship and get back on top by sending Vic Raschi, 18-8 with a 3.99 ERA, to the mound to face Washington’s Sid Hudson, a side-arming right-hander, who was 12-12 with a 4.10 ERA.
After Hudson set down the side in order in the first, DiMaggio came to the plate to lead off the top of the second. He certainly didn’t look as though he was struggling when he launched the ball into the left-field bleachers for his 25th home run of the season to put the Yankees in front, 1-0.
In the third inning, New York added two more runs. The rally started when Raschi drew a one-out walk. After Phil Rizzuto grounded into a fielder’s choice, recently acquired Johnny Hopp collected his first hit as a Yankee, blooping a single to left field that put runners at the corners.4 Hank Bauer singled home the second run of the game, and DiMaggio walked to load the bases. The Yankees scored another run on a chaotic play, when Yogi Berra hit a tapper on the first-base side. Hudson came off the mound to field it, but his throw to first nailed Berra in the back. Hopp raced home with the third run of the game, as second baseman Cass Michaels “recovered the ball and threw to shortstop Sam Dente, trapping DiMaggio off second. Bauer then had to race from third to the plate and was caught.”5
In the sixth inning, DiMaggio deposited another home run into the bleachers beyond Griffith Stadium’s spacious left field. The solo shot, his second of the game, put New York on top 4-0. The way Raschi was dealing, the four-run lead must have felt like a mountain to climb for the Senators. The Yankees ace had allowed just a walk and a single through his first five innings. However, in the home half of the sixth, Washington scratched out a run against the right-hander. The mini-rally began when Hudson singled with one out and Eddie Yost drew a walk. Bud Stewart then got the Senators on the scoreboard with an RBI single. Raschi easily retired the next two batters, and the Yankees led at the end of six innings, 4-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, a 28-minute rain delay halted play. The weather continued to be a nuisance for the rest of the day. When the game resumed, Mickey Harris took the mound for the Senators in the eighth after Hudson had been pinch-hit for. DiMaggio, who was already 2-for-2 with two home runs and a walk, greeted the lefty reliever by ripping a “screaming double through Eddie Yost and down the left-field line.”6 Tommy Henrich brought DiMaggio home when he legged out a triple on a ball that hit off the wall in deep right-center field.
After Henrich’s hit, the game was delayed for 15 minutes by another cloudburst. Then, as the Yankees took the field for the bottom of the eighth, the skies opened up again, and the game’s third rain delay ensued, this time for an hour and 15 minutes. The New York Times wrote that the “repeated showers wore a ground crew almost down to exhaustion.”7 When the game finally resumed, Casey Stengel removed Raschi, “Vic’s arm having tightened up during the intermission,” and replaced him with Tom Ferrick.8 Ferrick held the Senators down through the final two innings, allowing just two walks, one of which was erased on a double play.
However, DiMaggio and the Yankees weren’t done. In the ninth Rizzuto singled with one down and took second on Hopp’s groundout to short. Hank Bauer brought the Yankees’ sixth run home with a single to center. Up stepped DiMaggio, who once again sent a ball into the distant left-field bleachers. His third home run of the game was described as his longest of the day.9 The homer was DiMaggio’s 27th of the season, and the two runs driven in gave him 101 RBIs, putting him over the century mark for the ninth time in his career. The three-run inning gave the Yankees a commanding 8-1 lead. Ferrick finished off the Senators in the ninth, and the Yankees, after losing three in a row, including the first two games of their road trip, were back to their winning ways.
Raschi ended up winning his 19th game of the season, going seven innings, allowing one run on four hits, striking out five and walking three, and lowering his ERA to 3.91. After the game Casey Stengel gushed over his ace proclaiming him the “best pitcher in the American League, (Bob) Lemon or no Lemon, (Art) Houtteman or no Houtteman.”10
The rain that hampered the first game continued, and the second game of the twin bill was washed out in the fourth inning before it could become official, with the Senators leading 6-2. DiMaggio blasted a pair of balls that just missed being home runs in the nightcap. “Leaping catches” in front of the left-field wall prevented him from tallying a couple more circuit clouts.11 The Tigers split a doubleheader with the White Sox, so the Yankees moved to within a half-game of the league leaders, while the Red Sox, who also won, remained a half-game behind New York.
After struggling through a rough patch, DiMaggio was once again the hero for the Yankees. He went 4-for-4, with three home runs, a double, a walk, four runs scored, and four runs driven in. It was the first time a player hit three home runs in a game at Griffith Stadium. The left-field fence at Griffith Stadium was 386 feet down the foul line,12 and all three of DiMaggio’s blasts were reported to have gone over 400 feet. DiMaggio told the Brooklyn Eagle: “This Washington Park is a real drive. It’s been a jinx for me. You earn every homer you get here.”13 It was the third time in his career that he’d hit three home runs in a game, each time in a road game. (He’d also accomplished the feat in 1937 in a game at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, and in 1948 at Cleveland Stadium.)
DiMaggio declared, “I guess the two days off we had Friday and Saturday helped me a lot.”14 Stengel echoed his star’s comments, saying “Just shows you what rest does for the big fella.”15 Commenting on statements by the aging center fielder’s doubters and naysayers, Stengel exclaimed, “Is he through? Hah! I’d like to have a dozen washed-up ballplayers like him.”16
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com.
1 Dan Daniel, “DiMaggio Gets Into Swing of Yankee Drive,” The Sporting News, September, 20, 1950: 9.
3 United Press, “DiMag Remains Yankee Clipper with Rest Cure,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 11, 1950: 11.
4 Hopp had been acquired from Pittsburgh in a waiver deal.
5 Joe Trimble, “Yanks Blast Senators, 8-1, as DiMaggio Hits 3 Homers,” New York Daily News, September 11, 1950: 47.
6 Ed Sinclair, “Yankees Rout Senators, 8-1, Gain as Tigers Split, 1-0, 5-4,” New York Herald Tribune, September 11, 1950: 19.
7 John Drebinger, “Bombers Triumph at Washington, 8-1,” New York Times, September 11, 1950: 31.
9 United Press, “DiMag Hits Three 400-Foot Homers, Yanks Slug Nats 8-1 – 2d Game Rained Out,” Boston Globe, September 11, 1950: 6.
11 Associated Press, “Has DiMag’s Bat Come to Life in Time to Put Yanks on Top?,” Boston Globe, September 11, 1950: 10.
13 United Press, “DiMag Remains Yankee Clipper with Rest Cure.”