He was born Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig, but most famously known as Lou Gehrig. For 17 seasons he played first base for the New York Yankees. Then as now, he was and is regarded as one of the greatest stars of all time. His 1927 Bronx Bombers team was called “Murderers’ Row” and thought to be the best there ever was.
During Gehrig’s playing days, he was renowned throughout the game of baseball for his hitting prowess, and his durability. For the latter, he was accorded a special nickname, “the Iron Horse.” He appeared in 2,130 consecutive games.
But this phenomenal streak came to an end, for a terrible reason. Eventually he was diagnosed with a rare debilitating neurological disease. Lou Gehrig was suffering from amyoytrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, known widely today also as Lou Gehrig Disease.
Early in 1939 he was slumping at the plate. In the field one day he struggled on a routine play at first base. He observed later, “That was the simplest play you could ever make in baseball, and I knew then: There was something wrong with me.”
He went hitless in his final game, which turned out to be April 30, 1939.
Then on May 2, for a game in Detroit, feeling that he wasn’t helping the Yankees ball club, Gehrig approached his manager, Joe McCarthy, before the game that day, and said, “I’m benching myself, Joe.” He felt it was for the good of the team.
He delivered the starting lineup to home plate, but returned to the dugout, never to play again. The Detroit Tigers field announcer let the fans know Gehrig’s streak was over. He received a standing ovation, and sat there on the bench fighting back tears.
The next day, the New York Yankees announced that Lou Gehrig, the team captain, was retiring from the game. The world of baseball was stunned.
The world has never forgotten him.
Gary Cooper played his life story on screen.
Lou Gehrig’s teams won six World Series. Once he won the Triple Crown. He won the Most Valuable Player Award twice. His career batting average was 340. He hit 493 home runs. Once they commenced playing All-Star games, Gehrig was in seven consecutive ones. His number, 4 (because he hit cleanup) was the first ever to be retired in baseball. Of course he was a first ballot Hall of Fame member.