What They Said At The Time… Joe DiMaggio’s Greatest Catch (from Baseball’s Unforg
The Book Baseball’s Unforgettable Games was written by the famosu baseball scribe Joe Reichler along with Ben Olan. This book was published by The Ronald Press Company of New York in 1960.
The text contains many of baseball’s most memorable stories: Babe Ruth’s Called Shot, Johnny Vander Meer’s Two No-Hitters, Ted Williams’ .406, Don Larsen’s Perfect Game, and so many others. But, along with those great stories are others, such as the one printed below, that have been lost over time in baseball’s rich history…
Joe DiMaggio’s Greatest Catch
(August 2, 1939)
Shortly after Joe DiMaggio descended upon the major league baseball scene in 1936, his defensive excellence was being compared with that of Tris Speaker, the famed Gray Eagle. A potent batman, too, DiMaggio gave his followers something to look forward to when the Yankees took the field. Smoothly and effortlessly, he patrolled the Yankee Stadium outfield. Possessor of a strong arm and an uncanny knack for getting a quick jump on a fly ball, DiMag pulled many Yankee pitchers out of troublesome situations with his spectacular fielding plays.
It was during a relatively uninteresting game on August 2, 1939, that DiMaggio executed what was perhaps his most sensational catch. One of the major attractions for the 12,341 spectators that day was Atley Donald’s bid for his thirteenth straight victory. The Yankees’ rookie right-hander had yet to taste defeat. But the opposition, the Detroit Tigers, got to him for six runs in the first five innings, and he was removed for a pinch hitter in the Yankee fifth. Meanwhile Schoolboy Rowe was turning in an effective pitching job for Detroit, and the Tigers led 7-2 in the ninth.
Spud Chandler, another right-hander, was on the mound for New York at this point. With Earl Averill on first, Hank Greenberg drove a tremendous fly to deepest center. Turning with the crack of the bat, DiMaggio raced to within 2 feet of the 461-foot mark on the wall and, without looking backward, clutched the ball in his gloved hand an instant before it hit the fence. Averill, approaching third, had to retrace his steps, and a double play was averted only when Frank Crosetti’s relay from DiMaggio hit Averill on the back.
The fans cheered DiMaggio for several minutes and the Yankees swarmed all over him when he returned to the dugout. Meanwhile Greenberg, who had closely approached Babe Ruth’s home run record by hitting 58 the year before, stood with his hands on his hips, muttering: “What does a guy have to do to get a hit?”
Veteran observers called DiMag’s highway robbery on Greenberg’s blast the greatest catch ever made in Yankee Stadium. The odd part about it was that it was DiMaggio’s only put-out of the game.