Among the most remarkable feats in all of sport is that of Joe DiMaggio, who during the 1941 baseball season hit safely in 56 consecutive games. Seidel (Literature/ Columbia Univ.) offers a resonant day-by-day appreciation of the Yankee center fielder's legendary streak, commemorating it as a grace note in an increasingly discordant world. While Joltin' Joe was battering American League pitchers for a .408 average from May 15 to July 17, Seidel recalls, the Luftwaffe bombed Parliament, Nazi Germany invaded Soviet Russia, and British forces assaulted Axis strongholds in the Ruhr Valley as well as Vichy France. The US had not yet been drawn into WW II, but FDR was proving a most aggressive neutral to the consternation of America First isolationists like Col. Charles Lindbergh, actress Lillian Gish, and Sen. Burton K. Wheeler. In the meantime, DiMaggio was not the only slugger with a hot hand. Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox (who hit .406 on the season) was burning up the league as well. To log Joe D's sustained burst of excellence, which carried him well past George Sisler's modern record of 41 games and Wee Willie Keeler's (then all but forgotten) 19th-century mark of 44, Seidel interviewed both DiMaggio and Williams. He also checked with a host of DiMaggio's surviving teammates and rivals. Many contribute anecdotes that bring to life the impressive streak and its turning points, which not only boosted attendance wherever Joe D played but also made front-page news across the country. An altogether splendid evocation of the consummate professional whose athletic achievements were a welcome diversion for a nation marching as to war. The absorbing text has box scores for 57 games, including the July 17 night contest in Cleveland when DiMaggio went 0-for-3 before 67,468 Indians fans, plus 36 pages of black-and-white photographs (not seen).