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This Day in Yankees History: Joe DiMaggio named “Greatest living ballplayer”

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Half a century ago, Joe DiMaggio was bestowed a curious honor.

Joe Dimaggio Taking Off Hat For Crowd

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. With the 2020 season just getting underway, the Pinstripe Alley team decided to revive the program in a slightly different format. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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This Day in Yankees History (July 29)

54 years ago

The Yankees defeated the White Sox by a score to 2-1 as Mickey Mantle wrapped up one of the finer hot streaks of his career. The game was won thanks to Al Downing’s 8.1 innings of one-run ball, and Mantle’s two-run homer in the fourth. The dinger marked Mantle’s 14th in the past 24 games, bringing his slash line over that stretch to .384/.500/.973. He would finish the season with a 170 OPS+, though would only play 108 games, as the 34-year-old struggled with injuries late in his career.

51 years ago

Joe DiMaggio was proclaimed the “Greatest Living Ballplayer” by sportswriters of the time, 18 years after DiMaggio last played a game. He would insist on being introduced as such at future Old-Timers’ Day games. Viewed from our current day, DiMaggio receiving the distinction appears curious, given Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and others all were very much living ballplayers.

14 years ago

The Yankees lost 19-6 to the Devil Rays, which has to rank up there as one of the team’s most embarrassing losses of this century. Tampa Bay would lose 101 games that year, marking the eighth-consecutive season since the team’s inception that they lost at least 90 games. Yet in baseball, even the worst teams can triumph over the best on the right day. Randy Johnson was brutalized for nine runs in 3.1 innings, Shawn Chacon fared no better, giving up five runs in 2.2 innings, and Mike Myers followed by allowing three runs without recording an out.

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Birthdays

It’s the 61st birthday of Dave LaPoint, who played 12 years in the majors across the 80’s and 90’s, spending 1989 and 1990 with the Yankees. He went just 13-19 with a a 4.74 ERA in New York. Walter Beall was born 121 years ago today. He made just 36 appearances in the majors, all in the 1920’s. He spent four seasons with the Yankees, going 4-5 with a 4.46 ERA.

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We thank Baseball-Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.