This is the 75th Anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, and while he is generally one of the top ballplayers of all time, is it possible to regard Joe DiMaggio, as underrated? It is possible, and it was a column by Phil Mushnick of the NYPost that re-posited this theme.
I did some research on a group of power hitters and found that Mays+10, Aaron+15, F.Robinson+56, Banks+68, Harmon Killebrew+9, Jimmy Foxx +64(I did not separate between his years with the A’s and Red Sox)and Ruth who was +9 while playing for the Yankees, all had more home runs at home than on the road. Conversely, Ted Williams had 25, Mike Schmidt 18, Gehrig hit 55 more on the road, Berra had six more, Mantle four more away.) Roger Maris’ 61 homers in 1961 were evenly divided with 30 at home 31 on the road. From 1960 to 1964 it was 85 homers on the road, 97 on the road. That should put to rest the argument that the short right field porch was a bonanza to lefties.
Joe D’s home run total were severely effected by playing half of his games in the then cavernous Yankee Stadium’s ‘Death Valley.’ It was 404 feet to short left, 457 to left-center, and 461 to dead center. But, none were effected by the homefield disadvantage for home runs than Joe DiMaggio. Of his 361 home runs 218 were on the road, and only 148 were at home. A total of 64 more homers on the road. He had eight Series Homers and all were on the road. His career stats were 148 to 213.
That’s why I think hitting 46 Homers in 1937 was one of the greatest exhibitions of power hitting of all time. I think if someone had the time or inclination, information could be found how many fly boys were caught 425 feet from home, or 440 feet from home. Could he have lost fourteen homers to fly ball outs 425 feet from home? Perhaps Ruth’s record of 60 would have lasted only fourteen years. And this brings up another of his achievements.
Joe D had the twelfth highest slugging percentage in baseball history of. 97. He ended up with 361 home runs, had 881 extra base hits yet, struck out only 369 times. If you discount his last year, when he was much past his prime, his homer to strikeouts would be: 349 to 333. The only person close to him among the top 20 slugging percentages is Musial with 475 and 696, and if you count only his first thirteen years he still trails DiMaggio. Only Yogi Berra, another great contact hitter comes close after thirteen years 311 and 327.
DiMaggio was the consummate five tool player. He hit for power, for average, was as good a defensive center fielder as there was(it was said he never had to dive for a ball so great was his innate ability to get a jump on the ball)as he patrolled the largest outfield in the majors. covering the largest outfield in the Major Leagues. The age of steroids and cookie cutter band box ball parks(and I include Steinbrenner Park and Galleria) will give us more players with far greater home run totals., But he would be the center fielder I would choose for my team.