33 games and counting! Chase Utley will attempt to extend his quest of the impossible dream, breaking Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, tonight against Jeff Weaver and the St. Louis Cardinals. 33 games is quite an accomplishment, but let’s put into perspective just how difficult his task of catching Jolting Joe’s amazing record will be.
In 1984, Ed Purcell, a Nobel Laureate and one of the world’s most reknowned physicists, did a statistical study of the odds of a player breaking Dimaggio’s record. Jay Gould wrote about this study in a letter he sent to Dimaggio in 1985, explaining the basic results of Purcell’s work. In simple terms, Purcell’s conclusion was that a player with a .350 career average who has played at least 10-years (which there have only been three of in the history of baseball—Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Joe Jackson) would have a less than 1% chance of attaining a 50-game hit streak, let alone a 56-game streak.
Still, Utley’s accomplishment is quite extraordinary considering there have only been 20 players who have had hitting streaks as long as or longer than 33 games (21 players if you count Denny Lyons’ 52-game hit streak for the Athletics in 1887, but walks were considered hits then, so his streak in terms of modern baseball’s rules would have only been 21 games).
So, as we rally behind Utley’s great chase of Dimaggio’s record, let’s remember to temper our expectations and recall all the great streaks before that have come up short. But, then again, it’s o’k to dream a little dream, even the impossible dream! That’s what baseball is all about.
Top 5 All-Time Hitting Streaks
1. Joe Dimaggio (Yankees) 56 1941
2. Pete Rose (Reds) 44 1978
3. Wee Willie Keeler (Orioles) 44 1897
4. Bill Dahlen (Colts) 41 1894
5. George Sisler (Browns) 41 1922