Gehrig was born in Manhattan in 1903 to Christina and Heinrich Gehrig, both recent immigrants from Germany. He was the only one of their children to survive past infancy. Because of this, Gehrig and his mother developed an extremely close relationship. Although the Gehrig family was lower-middle class, Christina Gehrig worked hard as a maid, cook, and washerwoman to make sure that Gehrig had every opportunity to succeed. From a young age Gehrig helped his mother, delivering the washing that she took in, but he still found plenty of time to play.
Gehrig excelled at all of the sports which could be played on the streets of New York, including his favorite, baseball. In the summer, he and his friends often dove into the Hudson River, off of the cliffs at 181st Street where the George Washington Bridge would later be built. When he was eleven Gehrig swam the whole way to New Jersey and back from this point, which reportedly earned him a boxing on the ears from his father. Dangerous
stunts aside, the elder Gehrig encouraged Lou's physical development, often taking Gehrig along when he went to the turnvereins, gymnasiums where German-American men gathered. Heinrich Gehrig also bought Lou his first baseball glove.