The Yankee duo reunited – Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939. Within a decade a similar testimonial would honor Ruth, who died from cancer in 1948. Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth (right) on "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" (July 4, 1939) at Yankee Stadium, following Gehrig's retirement.

The Yankee duo reunited – Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939. Within a decade a similar testimonial would honor Ruth, who died from cancer in 1948.
Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth (right) on “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day” (July 4, 1939) at Yankee Stadium, following Gehrig’s retirement.

Probably one of the greatest players to ever walk onto a baseball diamond, Lou Gehrig put down his bat on May 2, 1939.  He benched himself for a poor play and ended his record of 13 consecutive years of never missing a game.  That is 2,130 games.  As the world knows, it was more than a bad play.  Lou Gehrig developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and he would never play again. Gehrig began to experience symptoms of ALS during the 1938 season, but doctors initially struggled to diagnose him.

How great was Lou Gehrig?  His offensive output was as extraordinary as his consecutive games streak. The left-handed slugger led the American League in RBIs five times, driving in at least 100 runs 13 years in a row. He led the American League (AL) in home runs three times, led in runs four times and led the league in hitting once. In the Yankees first golden era, Gehrig batted cleanup, right after Babe Ruth, the bigger star of the two. It was Gehrig, however, who was named American League MVP in 1927, on a Yankee team considered the greatest team in history; he won the award again in 1936, another championship year for the Yankees. In all, Gehrig won six World Series titles with the Yankees.  I wrote about Lou Gehrig previous in honor of his debut in baseball.

On July 4, 1939, the Yankees held Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium. With over 60,000 fans in the stands and his former teammates there to honor him, Gehrig was overcome by emotion, and his legs shook from his developing paralysis. Gehrig stared hard at the ground, unable to speak, until his longtime manager Joe McCarthy and teammate Babe Ruth encouraged him. Then, in gratitude for his great career, and knowing he was dying from an unknown disease, he said: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”  Lou Gehrig died on June 2, 1941, with his wife Eleanor by his side.

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2 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    This man always had my deep respect which is not normally held for sports figures. He just handled his disease with such bravery and humility that few people can muster.

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