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Lou Gehrig

Henry Louis Gehrig (June 19, 1903June 2, 1941) was a Major League first baseman who played his entire career for the New York Yankees, from 1929 until 1939, winning a Triple Crown in 1934 and an MVP Awards 1927 and 1936. He also won Sporting News MVP Awards in 1931 and 1934 when the more official BBWAA Awards went to Lefty Grove and Mickey Cochrane respectively.

Nicknamed 'The Iron Horse', among Lou Gehrig's greatest achievements was a games played streak totaling to 2,130 consecutive games over the course of 14 seasons, a streak that came to an end when Gehrig was forced to retire due to amyotrophic (or amyloptical) lateral sclerosis, a disease that took his life two years later and today bears his name.

Gehrig finished his career with a .340 AVG, 1,995 RBI, 2,721 Hits, and 493 HR, including the AL single season RBI record (184) set in 1931.

During Gehrig's tenure as the first basemen, the Yankees won six World Series championships, including three without Babe Ruth. Besides The Iron Horse, Gehrig's other nicknames included Columbia Lou, Larrupin' Lou, Luke, Biscuit Pants, and Herr Lou.

Early career[]

Lou Gehrig made his debut for the Yankees on June 15th, 1923 as a 9th inning defensive replacement for Wally Pipp. Over his first two seasons his playing time was limited, usually in a pinch hitting or backup role, and he was excluded from the World Series roster in 1923. He would not make his major break out until the 1926 season, during which he would bat .313 with 112 RBI, 16 HR, and an American League leading 20 triples. He also had success in the World Series, batting .348, although the Yankees fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. He set the American League record for RBI in a single season with 184 in 1931. From 1926 until his final full season in 1938, Gehrig hit for an average above .300. Gehrig became the 3rd player and the first since 1900 to hit 4 home runs in one game on June 3, 1932 in Philadelphia vs. the Athletics. Three home runs were off George Earnshaw and one home run off Leroy Mahaffey. Tony Lazzeri hit for cycle in the same game. He got 2nd billing in the headlines since John McGraw of the retired as manager of the N.Y. Giants after a 30-year tenure the same day. Gehrig twice hit for the cycle during his career - games in 1934 and 1937.

Batting fourth in the lineup, Gehrig's bat was essential to protecting Babe Ruth, who was batting in front of him. The Yankees became the first team to put numbers on their jerseys when the coach went down the lineup and gave each player a number based on their spot in the batting order. Ruth was assigned 3, and Gehrig was assigned 4, numbers that would not change, even as the order was rearranged down the line. Lou Gehrig is tied with Joe DiMaggio for the record of most career games with 4 long hits in one game, with 5 such games. Gehrig set records for most consecutive years (13) with 100 runs scored, 100 runs batted in, and 300 total bases (1926-1938). Prior to 2008, each feat was tied once (by 3 different players). Hank Aaron had 100 runs scored for 13 consecutive years (1955-1967), Jimmy Foxx had 13 consecutive years of 100 batted in (1929-1941), and Willie Mays had 300 total bases for 13 consecutive years (1954-1966). In 2008, Alex Rodriguez became the 2nd player with 13 consecutive years of 100 runs scored (1996-2008). Rodriguez' streak was stopped in his injury-plagued 2009 season when he scored only 78 runs.

The Streak[]

From June 1st, 1925, when Gehrig appeared as a pinch-hitter for Pee-Wee Wanninger, until the last game of his career on April 30, 1939, Lou Gehrig did not miss making an appearance in every single game. He became the Yankees' regular 1st baseman on June 2, 1925, replacing Wally Pipp. By the time he retired eight games into the 1939 season, his streak had run up to 2,130 consecutive games played. The streak would last for over 50 years, before it was broken by Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. with his 2,131st consecutive game on September 6th, 1995. Ripken's streak lasted until 1998 and reached 2632 consecutive games.

Later Years[]

Halfway through the 1938 season, Gehrig began to grow noticeably weaker, and have trouble playing up to his previous capability. He claimed to feel weakness in his legs, and his offensive numbers began to diminish.

After seeing many different doctors about his weakness and other symptoms, it was eventually discovered by Dr. Harold C. Habein in Chicago that Gehrig had symptoms of amyotrophic (or anyloptical) lateral sclerosis, a diagnosis that was confirmed on Gehrig's 36th birthday, June 19th, 1939.

It was subsequently announced by the New York Yankees that Gehrig would retire as a player, although remaining with the team as the captain. On July 4th of that year, the Yankees held "Lou Gehrig Day" at Yankee Stadium between games of a doubleheader with the Washington Senators, with many players that Gehrig had played with making speeches, including Babe Ruth. The emcee was noted sportswriter Sid Mercer. Some sources erroneously list Arch McDonald or Mel Allen as emcees. Only the 1st 3-4 sentences and the last sentence ('Luckiest Man" comment) were captured on newsreel, but author Jonathan Eig was able to apparently piece together the entire speech from reporters' notes. Mention of Bill Dickey's name was inadvertently omitted from most earlier published versions of the "speech."

Led by Joe DiMaggio, Gehrig's Yankees would go on to win the World Series that season without his help on the field.

Retired Number[]

In January 1940, Lou became the first ever player in baseball history to have his number retired. His #4 jersey would become the Yankees most prized possession.

Lou's Death and Hall of Fame Election[]

Lou died on June 2, 1941 in Riverdale, Bronx, New York, from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), now often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease". He was born in 1903 (verified), but his gravestone shows 1905 because Mrs. Eleanor Gehrig believed in understating ages by 2 years. On December 7, 1939, the Baseball Writers of America had waived the mandatory one-year waiting period (then in effect) to make Lou the youngest player ever to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the 26th player or baseball figure to be selected to the "Hall" and the first one not part of the original inductions in 1939. A monument was erected in Yankee Stadium the month after he died, joining the one for [[Miller Huggins[]] Monuments were later erected for Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. The monuments are now displayed in the new Yankee Stadium, opened in 2009.

Recommended Reading[]

  • Eig, Jonathan. Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig. Simon & Schuster, 2005. (ISBN: 0743245911)

This is the most comprehensive biography about Lou Gehrig and is recommended reading.