Lou Gehrig

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Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig as a new Yankee 11 Jun 1923.jpg
Gehrig with the New York Yankees in 1923
First baseman
Born:(1903-06-19)June 19, 1903
Yorkville, Manhattan, New York City
Died: June 2, 1941(1941-06-02) (aged 37)
Riverdale, Bronx, New York City
Batted: LeftThrew: Left
MLB debut
June 15, 1923, for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
April 30, 1939, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Batting average .340
Hits 2,721
Home runs 493
Runs batted in 1,995
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg
Induction 1939
VoteSpecial Election

Henry Louis Gehrig (born Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig; [1] June 19, 1903  June 2, 1941) was an American professional baseball first baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees (1923–1939). Gehrig was renowned for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability, which earned him his nickname "The Iron Horse". He was an All-Star seven consecutive times, [2] a Triple Crown winner once, [3] an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player twice, [3] and a member of six World Series champion teams. He had a career .340 batting average, .632 slugging average, and a .447 on base average. He hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in (RBI). He still has the highest ratio of runs scored plus runs batted in per 100 plate appearances (35.08) and per 100 games (156.7) among Hall of Fame players. In 1939 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame [4] and was the first MLB player to have his uniform number (4) retired by a team.

Baseball team sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objective of the offensive team is to hit the ball into the field of play, allowing it to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.

First baseman defensive position in baseball and softball, played on the far right side of the infield at or near first base

First base, or 1B, is the first of four stations on a baseball diamond which must be touched in succession by a baserunner to score a run for that player's team. A first baseman is the player on the team playing defense who fields the area nearest first base, and is responsible for the majority of plays made at that base. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the first baseman is assigned the number 3.

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization, and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901, respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the Major League clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.


A native of New York City and a student at Columbia University, Gehrig signed with the Yankees in 1923. He set several major-league records during his career, [5] including the most career grand slams (23) (since broken by Alex Rodriguez) [6] [7] and most consecutive games played (2,130), a record that stood for 56 years and was long considered unbreakable until surpassed by Cal Ripken Jr., in 1995. [8] [9] Gehrig's consecutive game streak ended on May 2, 1939, when he voluntarily took himself out of the lineup, stunning both players and fans, after his performance on the field became hampered by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable neuromuscular illness; it is now commonly referred to in North America as "Lou Gehrig's disease". [10] The disease forced him to retire at age 36, and was the cause of his death two years later. The pathos of his farewell from baseball was capped off by his iconic 1939 "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech at Yankee Stadium.

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Grand slam (baseball) in baseball, a four-base hit with the bases loaded; it always results in four runs scored and four runs batted in, the maximum possible from one hit (or play)

In baseball, a grand slam is a home run hit with all three bases occupied by baserunners, thereby scoring four runs—the most possible in one play. According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the term originated in the card game of contract bridge, in which a grand slam involves taking all the possible tricks. The word slam, by itself, usually is connected with a loud sound, particularly of a door being closed with excess force; thus, slamming the door on one's opponent(s), in addition to the bat slamming the ball into a home run.

Alex Rodriguez American baseball player

Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez, nicknamed "A-Rod", is an American former professional baseball shortstop and third baseman who played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), primarily with the New York Yankees. He also played for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. Rodriguez began his professional career as one of the sport's most highly touted prospects, and is considered to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Rodriguez amassed a .295 batting average, over 600 home runs (696), over 2,000 runs batted in (RBI), over 2,000 runs scored, over 3,000 hits, and over 300 stolen bases, the only player in MLB history to achieve all of those feats. He was also a 14-time All-Star, winning three American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, ten Silver Slugger Awards, and two Gold Glove Awards. Rodríguez is also the career record holder for grand slams with 25. He signed two of the most lucrative sports contracts in baseball. In addition to his accomplishments, he also led a controversial career due to some of his behaviors, including the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

In 1969 the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted Gehrig the greatest first baseman of all time, [11] and he was the leading vote-getter on the MLB All-Century Team chosen by fans in 1999. [12] A monument in Gehrig's honor, originally dedicated by the Yankees in 1941, currently resides in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award is given annually to the MLB player who best exhibits Gehrig's integrity and character.

Baseball Writers Association of America

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) is a professional association for baseball journalists writing for daily newspapers, magazines and qualifying websites.

In 1999, the Major League Baseball All-Century Team was chosen by popular vote of fans. To select the team, a panel of experts first compiled a list of the 100 greatest Major League Baseball players from the past century. Over two million fans then voted on the players using paper and online ballots.

Monument Park (Yankee Stadium)

Monument Park is an open-air museum located in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York City, containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honoring distinguished members of the New York Yankees. When Red Ruffing's plaque was dedicated in 2004, his son called it "the second-greatest honor you can have in baseball, in my opinion" trailing only induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Early life

Gehrig was born in 1903 at 309 East 94th Street [13] in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan; [14] he weighed almost 14 pounds (6.4 kg) at birth. He was the second of four children of German immigrants, Christina Foch (1881–1954) and Heinrich Gehrig (1867–1946). [15] [16] His father was a sheet-metal worker by trade who was frequently unemployed due to alcoholism and epilepsy, and his mother, a maid, was the main breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family. [17] His two sisters died at an early age from whooping cough and measles; a brother also died in infancy. [18] From an early age, Gehrig helped his mother with work, doing tasks such as folding laundry and picking up supplies from the local stores. [19] Gehrig spoke German during his childhood. [20] In 1910 he lived with his parents at 2266 Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights. [21] In 1920 the family resided on 8th Avenue in Manhattan. [22] His name was often anglicized to Henry Louis Gehrig and he was known as "Lou" so he would not be confused with his identically named father, who was known as Henry. [23]

Yorkville, Manhattan Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City

Yorkville is a neighborhood in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. Its southern boundary is East 79th Street, its northern East 96th Street, its western Third Avenue, and its eastern the East River. Yorkville is among the city's most affluent neighborhoods.

Manhattan Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Manhattan, , is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City and its economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough is coextensive with New York County, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.

Metalworking process of making items from metal; production and processing of shaped workpieces made of metals

Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large-scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills, processes, and tools.

Gehrig on the Columbia University baseball team GehrigCU.jpg
Gehrig on the Columbia University baseball team

Gehrig first garnered national attention for his baseball ability while playing in a game at Cubs Park (now Wrigley Field) on June 26, 1920. His New York School of Commerce team was playing a team from Chicago's Lane Tech High School in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 spectators. [24] With his team leading 8–6 in the top of the ninth inning, Gehrig hit a grand slam completely out of the major league park, which was an unheard-of feat for a 17-year-old. [24] [25]

Wrigley Field Baseball stadium in Chicago, IL, US

Wrigley Field is a baseball park located on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois. It is the home of the Chicago Cubs, one of the city's two Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises. It first opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park for Charles Weeghman's Chicago Whales of the Federal League, which folded after the 1915 baseball season. The Cubs played their first home game at the park on April 20, 1916, defeating the Cincinnati Reds with a score of 7–6 in 11 innings. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. of the Wrigley Company acquired complete control of the Cubs in 1921. It was named Cubs Park from 1920 to 1926, before being renamed Wrigley Field in 1927.

Lane Technical College Prep High School

Lane Technical College Preparatory High School is a public 4-year selective enrollment magnet high school located in the Roscoe Village neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, United States. It is a part of the Chicago Public Schools district. Lane is one of the oldest schools in the city and has an enrollment of over four thousand students, making it the largest high school in Chicago. Lane is a selective-enrollment-based school in which students must take a test and pass a certain benchmark in order to be offered admission. Lane is one of eleven selective enrollment schools in Chicago. It is a diverse school with many of its students coming from different ethnicities and economic backgrounds. In 2019, Lane Tech was rated the #3 public high school in Illinois and #69 in the nation.

Gehrig attended PS 132 in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, then went to Commerce High School, graduating in 1921. [26] [27] He then studied at Columbia University for two years, before leaving to pursue a career in professional baseball. [28] Initially, he went to Columbia on a football scholarship, where he was preparing to pursue a degree in engineering. Before his first semester began, New York Giants manager John McGraw advised him to play summer professional baseball under an assumed name, Henry Lewis, despite the fact that it could jeopardize his collegiate sports eligibility. After he played a dozen games for the Hartford Senators in the Eastern League, he was discovered and banned from collegiate sports his freshman year. [29] In 1922 Gehrig returned to collegiate sports as a fullback for the Columbia Lions football program. Later, in 1923, he played first base and pitched for the Columbia baseball team. [29] At Columbia, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. [30]

Engineering applied science

Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other things, including bridges, roads, vehicles, and buildings. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specialized fields of engineering, each with a more specific emphasis on particular areas of applied mathematics, applied science, and types of application. See glossary of engineering.

John McGraw American baseball player, manager

John Joseph McGraw, nicknamed "Little Napoleon" and "Mugsy", was a Major League Baseball (MLB) player and manager of the New York Giants. He stood 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 m) tall and weighed 155 pounds (70 kg). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. While primarily a third baseman throughout his career, he also played shortstop and the outfield in the major leagues.

The Hartford Senators were a minor league baseball team based in Hartford, Connecticut. They operated in the Connecticut League from 1902–1912, the Eastern Association from 1913–1914, the Eastern League from 1916–1932 and the Northeastern League in 1934. For the 1932 season they were affiliated with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

On April 18, 1923, the same day Yankee Stadium opened for the first time and Babe Ruth inaugurated the new stadium with a home run against the Boston Red Sox, Columbia pitcher Gehrig struck out 17 Williams College batters to set a team record, though Columbia lost the game. Only a handful of collegians were at South Field that day, but more significant was the presence of Yankee scout Paul Krichell, who had been trailing Gehrig for some time. Gehrig's pitching did not particularly impress him; rather, it was Gehrig's powerful left-handed hitting. During the time Krichell observed him, Gehrig had hit some of the longest home runs ever seen on various eastern campuses, including a 450-foot (137 m) home run on April 28 at Columbia's South Field, which landed at 116th Street and Broadway. [31] He signed a contract with the Yankees on April 30. [32] He returned to the minor-league Hartford Senators to play parts of two seasons, 1923 and 1924, batting .344 and hitting 61 home runs in 193 games, the only time Gehrig had ever played any level of baseball – sandlot, high school, collegiate or pro – for a team based outside New York City.

Major league career

New York Yankees (1923–1939)

Gehrig during his rookie year, 1923 1923 Lou Gehrig.png
Gehrig during his rookie year, 1923

Gehrig joined the New York Yankees midway through the 1923 season and made his major-league debut as a pinch hitter at age 19 on June 15, 1923. Gehrig wore the number "4" because he hit behind Babe Ruth, who batted third in the lineup. [33] In his first two seasons, he saw limited playing time, mostly as a pinch hitter – he played in only 23 games and was not on the Yankees' 1923 World Series roster. In 1925 he batted .295, with 20 home runs and 68 runs batted in (RBIs). [34]

The 23-year-old Yankee first baseman's breakout season came in 1926, when he batted .313 with 47 doubles, an American League-leading 20 triples, 16 home runs, and 112 RBIs. [29] In the 1926 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Gehrig hit .348 with two doubles and four RBIs. The Cardinals won the series four games to three. [35]


Gehrig, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth, 1928 1928 Gehrig Speaker Cobb Ruth.jpg
Gehrig, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth, 1928

In 1927 Gehrig put together one of the greatest seasons by any batter in history, hitting .373, with 218 hits: 101 singles, 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs, a then-record 175 RBIs (surpassing teammate Babe Ruth's 171 six years earlier), and a .765 slugging percentage. [29] His 117 extra-base hits that season are second all-time to Babe Ruth's 119 extra-base hits in 1921 [29] and his 447 total bases are third all-time, after Babe Ruth's 457 total bases in 1921 and Rogers Hornsby's 450 in 1922. [29] Gehrig's production helped the 1927 Yankees to a 110–44 record, the AL pennant (by 19 games), and a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Although the AL recognized his season by naming him league MVP, Gehrig's accomplishments were overshadowed by Babe Ruth's 60-home-run season and the overall dominance of the 1927 Yankees, a team often cited as having the greatest lineup of all time – the famed "Murderers' Row". [36]

Despite playing in the shadow of Ruth for two-thirds of his career, Gehrig was one of the highest run producers in baseball history; he had 509 RBIs during a three-season stretch (1930–32). Only two other players, Jimmie Foxx with 507 and Hank Greenberg with 503, have surpassed 500 RBIs in any three seasons; their totals were not consecutive. (Babe Ruth had 498.) [37] Playing 14 complete seasons, Gehrig had 13 consecutive seasons with 100 or more RBIs (a major-league record shared with Foxx until eclipsed in 2010 by Alex Rodriguez). Gehrig had six seasons where he batted .350 or better (with a high of .379 in 1930), plus a seventh season at .349. Gehrig led the American League in runs scored four times, home runs three times, and RBIs five times. His 184 RBIs in 1931 remain the American League record as of 2018 and rank second all-time to Hack Wilson's 191 in 1930. On the single-season RBI list, Gehrig ranks second, fifth (175), and sixth (174), with four additional seasons of over 150 RBIs. He also holds the baseball record for most seasons with 400 total bases or more, accomplishing this feat five times in his career. [38] He batted fourth in the lineup behind Ruth, making intentionally walking Ruth counterproductive for opposing pitchers.

During the 10 seasons (1925–1934) in which Gehrig and Ruth were teammates and next to each other in the batting order and played a majority of the games, Gehrig had more home runs than Ruth only once, in 1934 (which was Ruth's last year with the Yankees), when he hit 49 to Ruth's 22 (Ruth played 125 games that year). They tied at 46 in 1931. Ruth had 424 home runs compared to Gehrig's 347; however, Gehrig outpaced Ruth in RBIs, 1,436 to 1,316. Gehrig had a .343 batting average, compared to .338 for Ruth. [39]

Gehrig 1933 Goudey baseball card LouGehrigGoudeycard.jpg
Gehrig 1933 Goudey baseball card


In 1932 Gehrig became the first player in the 20th century to hit four home runs in a game, when he accomplished the feat on June 3 against the Philadelphia Athletics. [40] He narrowly missed getting a fifth home run when Athletics center fielder Al Simmons made a leaping catch of another fly ball at the center-field fence. After the game, manager Joe McCarthy told him, "Well, Lou, nobody can take today away from you." On the same day, however, John McGraw announced his retirement after 30 years of managing the New York Giants. McGraw, not Gehrig, got the main headlines in the sports sections the next day. [41]


On August 17, 1933, Gehrig played in his 1,308th consecutive game against the St. Louis Browns at Sportsman's Park, which broke the longest consecutive games played streak previously held by Everett Scott. Scott attended as a guest of the Browns. [42]

In September 1933 Gehrig married Eleanor Grace Twitchell (1904–1984), [43] the daughter of Chicago Parks Commissioner Frank Twitchell. [44]


In a 1936 World Series cover story about Lou Gehrig and Carl Hubbell, Time proclaimed Gehrig "the game's No. 1 batsman", who "takes boyish pride in banging a baseball as far, and running around the bases as quickly, as possible". [45]

Also in 1936, at the urging of his wife, Gehrig agreed to hire Babe Ruth's agent, who, in turn, persuaded him to audition for the role of Tarzan, the Ape Man, after Johnny Weissmuller had vacated the iconic movie role. Gehrig only got as far, though, as posing for a widely distributed, and embarrassing, photo of himself in a leopard-spotted costume. When Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs spotted the outfit, he telegrammed Gehrig, "I want to congratulate you on being a swell first baseman." [46]

2,130 consecutive games

On June 1, 1925, Gehrig entered the game as a pinch hitter, substituting for shortstop Paul "Pee Wee" Wanninger. The next day, June 2, Yankee manager Miller Huggins started Gehrig in place of regular first baseman Wally Pipp. Pipp was in a slump, as was the team, so Huggins made several lineup changes in an attempt to boost their performance, replacing Pipp, Aaron Ward, and Wally Schang. [47] Fourteen years later, Gehrig had played 2,130 consecutive games. According to Thomas Pipp, his father never regained his starting spot after he recovered from a headache. He broke the previous record of 1,307 consecutive games.

Seven of the American League's 1937 All-Star players, from left to right Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg: All seven were eventually elected to the Hall of Fame. 1937 all stars crop FINAL2.jpg
Seven of the American League's 1937 All-Star players, from left to right Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg: All seven were eventually elected to the Hall of Fame.

In a few instances, Gehrig managed to keep the streak intact through pinch-hitting appearances and fortuitous timing; in others, the streak continued despite injuries. For example:

  • On April 23, 1933, a pitch by Washington Senators pitcher Earl Whitehill struck Gehrig in the head. Although almost knocked unconscious, Gehrig remained in the game.
  • On June 14, 1933, Gehrig was ejected from a game, along with manager Joe McCarthy, but he had already been at bat.
  • In a June 1934 exhibition game, Gehrig was hit by a pitch just above the right eye and was knocked unconscious. According to news reports, he was out for five minutes. Batting helmets were not commonly used until the 1940s. He left the game, but was in the lineup the next day. [48]
  • On July 13, 1934, Gehrig suffered a "lumbago attack" and had to be assisted off the field. In the next day's away game, he was listed in the lineup as "shortstop", batting lead-off. In his first and only plate appearance, he singled and was promptly replaced by a pinch runner to rest his throbbing back, never taking the field. A&E's Biography speculated that this illness, which he also described as "a cold in his back", might have been the first symptom of his debilitating disease. [49]

In addition, X-rays taken late in his life disclosed that Gehrig had sustained several fractures during his playing career, although he remained in the lineup despite those previously undisclosed injuries. [50] However, the streak was helped when Yankees general manager Ed Barrow postponed a game as a rainout on a day when Gehrig was sick with the flu, though it was not raining. [51]

He was also persuaded by his wife, Elanor, to end the streak at 1,999 games by acting sick, as he already played through flu bouts before, and a nearly 700-game lead over the previous record.

Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games endured for 56 years until Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed it on September 6, 1995; Ripken finished with 2,632 consecutive games. [52]


Although his performance in the second half of the 1938 season was slightly better than in the first half, Gehrig reported physical changes at the midway point. At the end of that season, he said, "I was tired mid-season. I don't know why, but I just couldn't get going again." Although his final 1938 statistics were above average (.295 batting average, 114 RBIs, 170 hits, .523 slugging percentage, 689 plate appearances with only 75 strikeouts, and 29 home runs), they were significantly down from his 1937 season, in which he batted .351 and slugged .643. In the 1938 World Series, he had four hits in 14 at-bats, all singles. [53]

When the Yankees began their 1939 spring training in St. Petersburg, Florida, Gehrig clearly no longer possessed his once-formidable power. Even his baserunning was affected, and at one point he collapsed at Al Lang Field, then the Yankees' spring training park. [54] By the end of spring training, he had not hit a home run. [55] Throughout his career, Gehrig was considered an excellent base runner, but as the 1939 season got under way, his coordination and speed had deteriorated significantly. [56]

By the end of April, his statistics were the worst of his career, with one RBI and a .143 batting average. Fans and the press openly speculated on Gehrig's abrupt decline. James Kahn, a reporter who wrote often about Gehrig, said in one article:

I think there is something wrong with him. Physically wrong, I mean. I don't know what it is, but I am satisfied that it goes far beyond his ball-playing. I have seen ballplayers 'go' overnight, as Gehrig seems to have done. But they were simply washed up as ballplayers. It's something deeper than that in this case, though. I have watched him very closely and this is what I have seen: I have seen him time a ball perfectly, swing on it as hard as he can, meet it squarely – and drive a soft, looping fly over the infield. In other words, for some reason that I do not know, his old power isn't there ... He is meeting the ball, time after time, and it isn't going anywhere. [57]

He was indeed meeting the ball, with only one strikeout in 28 at-bats, but hitless in 5 of the first 8 games. However, Joe McCarthy found himself resisting pressure from Yankee management to switch Gehrig to a part-time role. Things came to a head when Gehrig struggled to make a routine put-out at first base. The pitcher, Johnny Murphy, had to wait for him to drag himself over to the bag so he could field the throw. Murphy said, "Nice play, Lou." [57] Lou's reply was very dismissive. "That was the simplest play you could ever make in baseball, and I knew then: There was something wrong with me". [58]

On April 30 Gehrig went hitless against the Washington Senators. He had just played his 2,130th consecutive major league game. [39]

On May 2, the next game after a day off, Gehrig approached McCarthy before the game in Detroit against the Tigers and said, "I'm benching myself, Joe", telling the Yankees' skipper that he was doing so "for the good of the team." [59] McCarthy acquiesced, putting Ellsworth "Babe" Dahlgren in at first base, and also said that whenever Gehrig wanted to play again, the position was his. Gehrig, as Yankee captain, himself took the lineup card out to the shocked umpires before the game, ending the 14-year streak. Before the game began, the Briggs Stadium announcer told the fans, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time Lou Gehrig's name will not appear on the Yankee lineup in 2,130 consecutive games." The Detroit Tigers' fans gave Gehrig a standing ovation while he sat on the bench with tears in his eyes. [53] Coincidentally, among those attending the game was Wally Pipp, whom Gehrig had replaced at first base 2,130 games previously. A wire-service photograph of Gehrig reclining against the dugout steps with a stoic expression appeared the next day in the nation's newspapers. He stayed with the Yankees as team captain for the rest of the season, but never played in a major-league game again. [53]


As Gehrig's debilitation became steadily worse, his wife Eleanor called the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Her call was transferred to Charles William Mayo, who had been following Gehrig's career and his mysterious loss of strength. Mayo told Eleanor to bring Gehrig as soon as possible. [53]

Gehrig flew alone to Rochester from Chicago, where the Yankees were playing at the time, and arrived at the Mayo Clinic on June 13, 1939. After six days of extensive testing at the clinic, doctors confirmed the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on June 19, 1939, which was Gehrig's 36th birthday. [60] The prognosis was grim: rapidly increasing paralysis, difficulty in swallowing and speaking, and a life expectancy less than three years, although no impairment of mental functions would occur. Eleanor Gehrig was told that the cause of ALS was unknown, but it was painless, noncontagious, and cruel; the motor function of the central nervous system is destroyed, but the mind remains fully aware to the end. [61] [62] Gehrig often wrote letters to Eleanor, and in one such note written shortly afterwards, said in part:

The bad news is lateral sclerosis, in our language chronic infantile paralysis. There isn't any cure ... there are very few of these cases. It is probably caused by some germ ... Never heard of transmitting it to mates ... There is a 50–50 chance of keeping me as I am. I may need a cane in 10 or 15 years. Playing is out of the question ... [63]

Following Gehrig's visit to the Mayo Clinic, he briefly rejoined the Yankees in Washington, DC. As his train pulled into Union Station, he was greeted by a group of Boy Scouts, happily waving and wishing him luck. Gehrig waved back, but he leaned forward to his companion, Rutherford "Rud" Rennie of the New York Herald Tribune, and said, "They're wishing me luck – and I'm dying." [15] [64] [65]

An article in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology [66] suggested the possibility that some ALS-related illnesses diagnosed in Gehrig and other athletes may have been catalyzed by repeated concussions and other brain trauma. [67] [68] [69] In 2012 Minnesota state legislators sought to unseal Gehrig's medical records, which are held by the Mayo Clinic, in an effort to determine a connection, if any, between his illness and the concussion-related trauma he received during his career, prior to the advent of batting helmets and other protective equipment. The effort was abandoned after several leading medical experts explained that a records review would have no value unless correlated with autopsy data. An autopsy was not performed on Gehrig's body, and his remains were cremated after his open-casket wake. [70]


Lou Gehrig's number 4 was retired by the New York Yankees in 1939.
The Yankee dynamic duo reunited - Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, shortly after Gehrig's retirement. Within a decade, a similar testimonial would honor Ruth, who died from cancer in 1948. Babe Ruth hugging Lou Gehrig (1939).jpg
The Yankee dynamic duo reunited  Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, shortly after Gehrig's retirement. Within a decade, a similar testimonial would honor Ruth, who died from cancer in 1948.

The doctors of the Mayo Clinic had released their ALS diagnosis to the public on June 19, 1939. Two days later, the New York Yankees announced Gehrig's retirement, with an immediate public push to honor Gehrig. The idea of an appreciation day reportedly began with Bill Hirsch, a friend of sports columnist Bill Corum. Corum spoke of the idea in his column, and other sportswriters picked up on the idea, promoting it far and wide in their respective periodicals. Someone suggested the appreciation day be held during the All-Star Game, but when Yankees president Ed Barrow got ahold of the idea, he quickly shot down the All-Star Game suggestion. He did not want Gehrig to share the spotlight with any other all-star. Believing the idea was valid and the best thing to do, he wanted the appreciation day to be soon, and the Yankees proclaimed Tuesday, July 4, 1939, "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" at Yankee Stadium. Between games of the Independence Day doubleheader against the Washington Senators, the poignant ceremonies were held on the diamond. In its coverage the following day, The New York Times said it was "perhaps as colorful and dramatic a pageant as ever was enacted on a baseball field [as] 61,808 fans thundered a hail and farewell." [71] Dignitaries extolled the dying slugger and the members of the 1927 Yankees World Series team, known as "Murderer's Row", attended the ceremonies. New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia called Gehrig "the greatest prototype of good sportsmanship and citizenship" and Postmaster General James Farley concluded his speech by predicting, "For generations to come, boys who play baseball will point with pride to your record." [71]

Yankees Manager Joe McCarthy, struggling to control his emotions, then spoke of Lou Gehrig, with whom he had a close, almost father-and-sonlike bond. After describing Gehrig as "the finest example of a ballplayer, sportsman, and citizen that baseball has ever known", McCarthy could stand it no longer. Turning tearfully to Gehrig, the manager said, "Lou, what else can I say except that it was a sad day in the life of everybody who knew you when you came into my hotel room that day in Detroit and told me you were quitting as a ballplayer because you felt yourself a hindrance to the team. My God, man, you were never that." [72]

The Yankees retired Gehrig's uniform number "4", making him the first player in Major League Baseball history to be accorded that honor. [73] Gehrig was given many gifts, commemorative plaques, and trophies. Some came from VIPs; others came from the stadium's groundskeepers and janitorial staff. Footage of the ceremonies shows Gehrig being handed various gifts, and immediately setting them down on the ground, because he no longer had the arm strength to hold them. [15] The Yankees gave him a silver trophy with all of their signatures engraved on it. Inscribed on the front was a special poem they asked to be written by The New York Times writer John Kieran. The inscription on the trophy presented to Gehrig from his Yankees teammates: [74]

We've been to the wars together;
We took our foes as they came;
And always you were the leader,
And ever you played the game.

Idol of cheering millions,
Records are yours by sheaves;
Iron of frame they hailed you
Decked you with laurel leaves.

But higher than that we hold you,
We who have known you best;
Knowing the way you came through
Every human test.

Let this be a silent token
Of lasting Friendship's gleam,
And all that we've left unspoken;
Your Pals of the Yankees Team.

The trophy became one of Gehrig's most prized possessions. [75] It is currently on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

"The luckiest man on the face of the earth"

On July 4, 1939, Gehrig delivered what has been called "baseball's Gettysburg Address" to a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium. [76] [77] [78] The following text is the official written version published on LouGehrig.com. [76] The parts that are different from the available snippets of recordings of the speech actually given are shown in brackets in footnotes and replaced here by the words actually spoken:

Fans, for the past two weeks, you've been reading about a bad break. [79] [pause] Today [80] I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the [81] earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

When you look around, wouldn't you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine-looking men as are standing in uniform in this ballpark today? [82] Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that's the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. – Thank you.

No intact film of Gehrig's speech is known; only a small snippet of the newsreel footage has survived, incorporating his opening and closing remarks:

For the past two weeks you've been reading about a bad break. (pause) Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. (cut) When you look around, wouldn't you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine-looking men as are standing in uniform in this ballpark today? (cut) ... that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you. [83]

The crowd stood and applauded for almost two minutes. Gehrig was visibly shaken as he stepped back from the microphone, and wiped the tears away from his face with his handkerchief. [75] Babe Ruth came over and hugged him as a band played "I Love You Truly" and the crowd chanted, "We love you, Lou". The New York Times account the following day called it "one of the most touching scenes ever witnessed on a ball field", that made even hard-boiled reporters "swallow hard." [71]

Hall of Fame

During a winter meeting of the Baseball Writers' Association on December 7, 1939, Gehrig was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in a special election related to his illness. [84] At age 36, he was the youngest player to be so honored to date (that figure was surpassed by Sandy Koufax in 1972). [85] He never had a formal induction ceremony. On July 28, 2013, Gehrig and 11 other deceased ballplayers, including Rogers Hornsby, received a special tribute during the induction ceremony, held during "Hall of Fame Induction Weekend", July 26–29 in Cooperstown, New York. [86]

Later life

Lou Gehrig funeral at Christ Episcopal Church in Riverdale, Bronx, June 4, 1941 Lou Gehrig wake 1941.jpg
Lou Gehrig funeral at Christ Episcopal Church in Riverdale, Bronx, June 4, 1941
Lou Gehrig Way in New Rochelle, New York: He lived in a modest home at 9 Meadow Lane in the Residents Park section near the College of New Rochelle. Lou Gehrig Way 2010.JPG
Lou Gehrig Way in New Rochelle, New York: He lived in a modest home at 9 Meadow Lane in the Residents Park section near the College of New Rochelle.
Lou and Eleanor Gehrig's headstone in Kensico Cemetery (the year of his birth was erroneously inscribed as "1905") Lou Gehrig best 800.jpg
Lou and Eleanor Gehrig's headstone in Kensico Cemetery (the year of his birth was erroneously inscribed as "1905")

Gehrig played his last game for the Yankees on April 30, 1939. [87] On July 11 of that year, he appeared at the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium as the American League team captain (officially on the roster as a reserve player), exchanging lineup cards prior to the game. [88] [89]

Following his retirement from baseball, Lou Gehrig wrote, "Don't think I am depressed or pessimistic about my condition at present". Struggling against his ever-worsening physical condition, he added, "I intend to hold on as long as possible and then if the inevitable comes, I will accept it philosophically and hope for the best. That's all we can do." [15]

In October 1939, he accepted Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's appointment to a 10-year term as a New York City Parole Commissioner (Gehrig had moved from New Rochelle to Riverdale to satisfy a residency requirement for the job) and was sworn into office on January 2, 1940. [84] The Parole Commission commended the ex-ballplayer for his "firm belief in parole, properly administered", stating that Gehrig "indicated he accepted the parole post because it represented an opportunity for public service. He had rejected other job offers – including lucrative speaking and guest appearance opportunities – worth far more financially than the $5,700 a year commissionership." Gehrig visited New York City's correctional facilities, but insisted that the visits not be covered by news media. [90] As always, Gehrig quietly and efficiently performed his duties. He was often helped by his wife Eleanor, who would guide his hand when he had to sign official documents. Gehrig reached the point where his deteriorating physical condition made it impossible for him to continue in the job, and he quietly resigned from the position about a month before his death. [91]


At 10:10 p.m. on June 2, 1941, Gehrig died at his home at 5204 Delafield Avenue in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. [92] [93]

Upon hearing the news, Babe Ruth and his wife Claire went to the Gehrig house to console Eleanor. Mayor La Guardia ordered flags in New York to be flown at half-staff, and major-league ballparks around the nation did likewise. [94]

Following the funeral across the street from his house at Christ Episcopal Church of Riverdale, Gehrig's remains were cremated and scattered on June 4 at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York, which is 21 miles north of Yankee Stadium in suburban Westchester County. Lou Gehrig and Ed Barrow are both interred in the same section of Kensico Cemetery, which is next door to Gate of Heaven Cemetery, where the graves of Babe Ruth and Billy Martin are both located in Section 25. [95]

The Gehrigs had no children during their eight-year marriage. Eleanor never remarried and was quoted as saying, "I had the best of it. I would not have traded two minutes of my life with that man for 40 years with another." She dedicated the remainder of her life to supporting ALS research. She died 43 years after Lou on her 80th birthday, March 6, 1984, and was interred with him in Kensico Cemetery. [25]

Today the ALS treatment and research center at his alma mater, Columbia University is named The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig ALS Center. Located at NewYork–Presbyterian / Columbia University Medical Center, they have a clinical and research function directed at ALS and the related motor neuron diseases primary lateral sclerosis and progressive muscular atrophy.


The Yankees dedicated a monument to Gehrig in center field at Yankee Stadium on July 6, 1941; the shrine lauded him as "A man, a gentleman and a great ballplayer whose amazing record of 2,130 consecutive games should stand for all time." Gehrig's monument joined the one placed there in 1932 to Miller Huggins, which would eventually be followed by Babe Ruth's in 1949. [39]

Memorial plaques

Gehrig's birthplace in Manhattan at 1994 Second Avenue, near E. 103rd Street, is memorialized with a plaque marking the site, as is another early residence on 309 E. 94th Street, near Second Avenue. As of December 26,2011, the first-mentioned plaque is not present due to ongoing construction. The second-mentioned plaque is present, but ascribes to his birthplace, not early residence. Gehrig died in a white house at 5204 Delafield Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The house still stands today on the east side of the Henry Hudson Parkway and is likewise marked by a plaque. [29]

Records, awards, and accomplishments

Sixty years after his farewell to baseball, Gehrig received the most votes of any baseball player on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, chosen by fan balloting in 1999. [12]

In 1999 editors at Sporting News ranked Lou Gehrig sixth on their list of "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players". [96]


Gehrig sliding into home plate in 1925 Lou Gehrig 1925.jpg
Gehrig sliding into home plate in 1925
MLB Records
Most consecutive seasons with 120+ RBIs8 (1927–1934) [97]
Highest on-base percentage by a first baseman.447 [97]
Highest slugging percentage by a first baseman.632 [97]
Most extra base hits by a first baseman1,190 [97]
Most runs batted-in by a first baseman184 (1931) [97]
Most runs scored by a first baseman167 (1936) [97]
Highest slugging percentage by a first baseman.765 (1927) [97]
Extra-base hits by a first baseman117 (1927) [97]
Most total bases by a first baseman447 (1927) [97]
Most home runs [lower-alpha 1] 4 [97]
  1. The record is held with 15 other players

Awards and honors

Award/HonorNo. of timesDatesRefs
American League All-Star 71933–1939 [97]
American League MVP 21927, 1936 [97] [98]
The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award [99] 1955–present [97]
Named starting first baseman on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team 1999 [12]
Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum 1939 [97]
World Series champion 6 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938

Other accomplishments

Gehrig was mentioned in the poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:

Other distinctions [97]
Accomplishment Year
Triple Crown (.363 BA, 49 HR, 165 RBI) 1934
Only player in history to collect 400 total bases in five seasons 1927, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1936
With Stan Musial, one of two players to collect at least 500 doubles, 150 triples, and 450 home runs in a career
One of only four players (with Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Ted Williams) to end career with a minimum .330 batting average, 450 home runs, and 1,800 RBI
With Albert Pujols, one of two players to hit 40 doubles and 40 home runs in the same season three separate times 1927, 1930, 1934
Scored game-winning run in eight World Series games
First athlete ever to appear on a box of Wheaties
First baseball player to have his uniform number retired (January 6, 1940); his July 4, 1939, farewell speech was voted by fans as the fifth-greatest moment in Major League Baseball history in 2002 July 4, 1939
The Lou Gehrig Memorial Trophy was awarded to the most valuable player in the annual Hearst Sandlot Classic. 1946 - 1965
A Lou Gehrig 25-cent postage stamp was issued by the U.S. Postal Service on the 50th anniversary of his retirement from baseball, depicting him both in profile and at bat (Scott number 2417) 1989
On the 70th anniversary of his farewell address in Yankee Stadium, MLB dedicated a day of remembrance to him and to the awareness of ALS July 4, 2009
"Line-Up for Yesterday"

G is for Gehrig,
The Pride of the Stadium;
His record pure gold,
His courage, pure radium.

 Ogden Nash, SPORT (January 1949) [100]

Film and other media

Gehrig in Rawhide Gehrig in rawhide.jpg
Gehrig in Rawhide

Gehrig starred in the 1938 20th Century Fox movie Rawhide, playing himself in his only feature-film appearance. [101] In 2006, researchers presented a paper to the American Academy of Neurology, reporting on an analysis of Rawhide and photographs of Lou Gehrig from the 1937–1939 period, to ascertain when Gehrig began to show visible symptoms of ALS. They concluded that while atrophy of hand muscles could be detected in 1939 photographs of Gehrig, no such abnormality was visible at the time Rawhide was made in January 1938. "Examination of Rawhide showed that Gehrig functioned normally in January 1938", the report concluded. [102]

The life of Lou Gehrig was the subject of the 1942 film The Pride of the Yankees , starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig and Teresa Wright as his wife. It received 11 Academy Award nominations and won in one category, Film Editing. Real-life Yankees Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Bill Dickey (then still an active player) played themselves, as did sportscaster Bill Stern.

The 1978 TV movie A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story starred Blythe Danner and Edward Herrmann as Eleanor and Lou Gehrig. It was based on the 1976 autobiography My Luke and I, written by Eleanor Gehrig and Joseph Durso.

In an episode of the PBS series Jean Shepherd's America, the Chicago-born Jean Shepherd told of how his father (Jean Shepherd, Sr.) and he would watch Chicago White Sox games from the right-field upper deck at Comiskey Park in the 1930s. On one occasion, the Sox were playing the Yankees, and Shepherd Sr. had been taunting Gehrig, yelling at him all day. In the top of the ninth, with Sox icon Ted Lyons holding a slim lead, Gehrig came to bat with a man on base, and the senior Shepherd yelled in a voice that echoed around the ballpark, "Hit one up here, ya bum! I dare ya!" Gehrig did exactly that, hitting a screaming liner, practically into the heckler's lap, for the eventual game-winning home run. Shepherd's father was booed mercilessly, and he never again took junior Jean to a game. He apparently told this story originally when Gehrig's widow was in the audience at a speaking engagement. [103] [104] [105]

His digital likeness and the opening quote of the "baseball's Gettysburg Address" are featured in All Star Baseball 2004. [106]

See also

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  79. [Yet today]
  80. [this]
  81. [Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?]
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Further reading