The Yankee Clipper Gets Ready To Return To Play – June 21, 1949
Many who saw Joe DiMaggio play say he was the greatest all-around ballplayer who ever lived. Everything he did seemed effortless. Of course this is a huge exaggeration. Everything DiMaggio did so well required practice, patience and hard work.
When DiMaggio missed the first three months of the 1949 baseball season with a painful heel injury, many fans, players and sportswriters thought he might never play again.
So it was hush-hush when DiMaggio went to an empty Yankee Stadium to test out his heel in a full workout on June 21, 1949.
Things went well and DiMaggio returned to the Yankee line-up on June 28, 1949 at Fenway Park against the Red Sox to start a three game series. He hit a homerun in the first game which the Yankees won by a score of 5-4. The Yankees swept the series and when DiMaggio left Boston, he had hit four homeruns and driven in nine runs.
The impact of his return cannot be understated. In the 76 games DiMaggio played for the remainder of the year, he batted .346, hit 14 homeruns and drove in 67 runs. His on base percentage was the highest of his career, .459. In 329 plate appearances he struck out only 18 times.
The Yankees ended up edging the Red Sox by one game in the final season standings, propelling the Yankees into the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
DiMaggio would go on to have the worst World Series performance in his storied career, batting just .111. But the Yankees still defeated the Dodgers four games to one, starting their stretch of winning five World Championships in a row.