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56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports Hardcover – March 8, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Winner, CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year, Spitball Magazine

Runner-Up, PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing

Best Biography/Autobiography, San Francisco Book Festival

"The best baseball book to appear in many a season." --Roger Kahn

"The era, the ballplayer and the record are all laid out beautifully.... The tension of the times is matched by the pressure of the streak." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Kennedy combines the sweep of a historian, the narrative power of a novelist and the passion of a fan." --Allen Barra, Newsday

"Kennedy has produced a book that, like its subject, is destined to hold up over time." --Tom Verducci

"A wonderful book. And what may be the last word on a record that may last forever." --Gay Talese

"Kostya Kennedy rescues The Streak from the numberish precinct of the record book and brings it back to the realm of drama which it dominated in 1941. He follows the ripples of DiMaggio's doings to the wide world beyond baseball and delivers to us a tale that's a delight." --Richard Ben Cramer

"56--the number alone still has meaning, but there is a compelling and textured story behind it, a story that pre- and postdates the summer of 1941. Kostya Kennedy tells that story beautifully." --Bob Costas

About the Author

Kostya Kennedy is an assistant managing editor at Sports Illustrated and the New York Times bestselling author of 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, winner of the 2011 Casey Award and runner-up for the 2012 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. He lives with his wife and children in Westchester County, N.Y. To learn more, visit kostyakennedy.com.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Sports Illustrated (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603201777
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603201773
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kostya Kennedy, an Assistant Managing Editor at Sports Illustrated, writes on a wide range of subjects. Before joining SI, he was a staff writer at Newsday and contributed to The New York Times and The New Yorker. He earned an M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, from which he received a Pulitzer Fellowship. He has taught in the graduate journalism programs at Columbia and at N.Y.U. and has done frequent television and radio work. His New York Times best-selling book, 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, won the 2011 Casey Award and was a finalist for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. He also edited Sports Illustrated's best-selling The Hockey Book.

Kennedy grew up on Long Island. Before Columbia, he graduated with honors as a philosophy major from Stony Brook University where he played exactly one game in the school's rogue bloodsport, pit hockey. Kennedy also used to play bass guitar in the specialty rock cover band Rychyrd Prychyrd (the specialty: The band played songs by Kiss and Lynyrd Skynyrd). He now lives with his wife and children in New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first indication I was in for a special treat came from reading the recommendations on the back cover from the likes of Roger Kahn, Richard Ben Cramer, Bob Costas, Tom Verducci, and Leigh Montville. Author Kostya Kennedy has certainly enriched the baseball library with his book entitled 56, in relation to Joe DiMaggio's record-breaking hitting streak in that historical year of 1941. Other books have been written about this event, but this book is the one by which all others will be measured.

This is more than a recounting of the games in which the Yankee Clipper swatted his way into the baseball history books. We are also provided with the relationship with his wife, the former Dorothy Arnold who cheered her husband along. When their child was born in October of 1941 things changed between the two partners with a divorce eventually ensuing. The death of Yankee great Lou Gehrig took place on June 2nd during the early stages of the streak, and author Kennedy relates tidbits about Gehrig I hadn't read in numerous other accounts of the Iron Horse. This is also the story of Joe's relationship with brother Dominic, the center fielder of the Boston Red Sox and his superstar teammate Ted Williams who went on to hit an astounding .406 that year.

While DiMaggio may have appeared to be calm and regal as he went about his business during the streak he was churning up inside. The first goal he was to take aim at was George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns who hit in 41 consecutive games in 1922, then came Willie Keeler's streak of 44 consecutive games with the Baltimore Orioles in 1897.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a writer, I generally like to spend a couple of hours reading at night after eight to 10 hours of work a day. Somewhere around 9PM I head to bed to wake up at 5AM the next day.

I am disciplined, hard working...

And I stayed up all of last night and kept reading all of today because Kostya Kennedy's "56" is an outstanding book and one I just couldn't put down. It is like stepping into a time machine, an exciting, thought provoking time machine that took me to a world just before I was born.

This could be the finest sports book I have ever read. Not only does it place all of Joe DiMaggio's streak into historical perspective, a fascinating and well conceived historical perspective but he even gives us a final segment on probability theory and how it relates (or, really, doesn't relate) to what Joe DiMaggio did in 1941.

The final line of the book is memorable.

If you have the least interest in baseball, buy this book right now, today, and stay up all night reading it as I did.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the summer of 1941, the United States was preparing for war. Germany had invaded Russia, and Roosevelt was about to put an embargo on oil shipments to Japan. On the home front, two baseball players were about to etch their names in baseball immortality: Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. By the end of the season, Williams compiled a .406 batting average. No one has come close to .400 since then. DiMaggio had a little streak of his own that summer; he hit safely in 56 straight games. In this fine book, author Kostya Kennedy describes that magical baseball summer and how DiMaggio set a standard which, in all likelihood, will never be equaled.

For two straight months, DiMaggio came to the ballpark, and for two straight months, he hit. Some games, he would get his hit in his first at-bat; others, it would be in his final at-bat. There were questionable events along the way that helped keep the streak alive, such as the official scorer ruling a potential error a hit, and an opposing pitcher's decision to go against his manager and pitch to DiMaggio rather than walk him. As the streak grew in length, Joe was mobbed by fans in every stadium he played in, but none more so than Yankee Stadium. After each game, fans would run onto the field and try to steal his cap or pat him on the back (imagine fans trying to do that today). A song was written about Joe by Les Brown that became a big hit.

Finally, in the sweltering heat of July, the Yankees traveled to Cleveland for a series with the Indians. DiMaggio had extended his streak to 56 games, and was looking for more, but he ran up against two fine pitchers, and Ken Keltner, the Indians' 3rd baseman, made two spectacular defensive plays, taking away a sure hit each time. Just like that, the streak ended.
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Format: Hardcover
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Format: Hardcover
More than seventy years have passed since Cleveland third baseman Ken Keltner robbed Joe DiMaggio - not once, but twice with brilliant fielding plays - to put an end to the most fabled "streak" in all of sports: The 56-Game Hitting Streak. Certainly, the fact that the legendary Joe DiMaggio established the record, and that he happened to do it the same year (1941) the equally-legendary Ted Williams happened to hit .406, adds to the mystique.

Kostya Kennedy has compiled this fascinating perspective of DiMaggio's remarkable consistency, and how a nation became captivated with this story as each new milestone was reached. DiMaggio, whose public personna reflected a cool detachment about his on-field performance, was actually quite obsessed with sustaining this streak, and when it finally ended, was quite bummed-out. When teammate Phil Rizzuto tried to console the Yankee Clipper after that fateful day in Cleveland, Joe said he'd just as soon be left alone for a while, then proceeded to borrow a few bucks from Scooter so he could drown his sorrows with a few cocktails at a bar near their hotel.

Kennedy's uniquely detailed account of the way a very human ballplayer who was idolized by millions, accomplished a feat that may never be equalled again; at least, not in any of our lifetimes. It's a truly fascinating story.
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