Other DiMaggio: 34
From 1941 through 1980, the three longest hitting streaks in the American League belonged to Joe DiMaggio (56 in 1941) , Don DiMaggio (34 in 1949) and Ken Landreaux. The two DiMaggio brothers are household names, but Landreaux, not so much.
Ken Landreaux was selected by the Angels in the first round of the 1976 draft and amassed all of 77 hits in his first two seasons before being dealt to the Minnesota Twins in a six-player deal involving future Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew. When Landreaux returned to California for the first time as a member of the Twins in 1979, he told reporters he thought enough of his abilities to suggest it should have been an even swap: him for Carew.
“I know Carew is a seven time batting champion,” said Landreaux. “But I feel, if I continue to work hard, someday I can produce just as much as Carew did for this club.”
The comments didn’t sit well with Carew, who refused to speak to Landreaux after hearing them, but Landreaux said it was all in fun.
“I say outrageous things once in a while just to spice up a conversation,” he told The Sporting News. “I can’t believe how mad Rod got.”
Landreaux showed a lot of promise in his first season in Minnesota, hitting .305 with 15 homers and 83 RBI which somewhat eased Twins fans’ angst over losing Carew. Twins skipper Gene Mauch told The Sporting News, “If we leave him in left, he could become one of the best in the game.”
That didn’t quite happen, but he did turn in one of the more underrated hitting performances of the decade and it began at the end of an otherwise forgetful day.
The Twins opened the 1980 season with a 12-game road trip and thus didn’t have their home opener until April 22nd when they beat the Angels 8-1. The next day, in front of just 4,772 fans at Metropolitan Stadium, things didn’t go so well as California lefty Bruce Kison held Minnesota hitless into the 9th inning. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Angels also held a 17-0 lead as Landreaux stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth. His double to left field broke up Kison’s no-hit bid and served as the beginning of what would become a 31-game hitting streak.
From April 22nd until the end of May, Landreaux was an offensive force, batting .392 for a woeful Twins team that managed a mere 12 wins during the streak. The Twins were so woeful that Landreaux scored only 13 runs while getting on base 60 times via hit or walk.
After 31 games and 49 hits, the streak finally came to an end against Scott McGregor and the Baltimore Orioles Saturday, on May 31st.
“It figured a guy like that would stop me,” said Landreaux. “I prefer the gassers, the guys who bring some heat. But I had a couple of chances. McGregor threw me some cookies…I just missed them.”
The other thing he just missed was a bonus of $1,000 for each game of the streak, offered up by the makers of Aqua Velva. After Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak in 1978, Aqua Velva offered the bonus to the person who recorded the longest hitting streak each season. Rose himself took the prize home in ’79 but Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in in 1980 saying the bonus put too much pressure on official scorers. Kuhn and Aqua Velva eventually reached an agreement which allowed Landreaux to donate the money to the Little League and Pop Warner programs in his home town of Compton, CA.