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Lou Gehrig

Glory Days

The Yankees of the late 1920s and the 1930s were legendary. With Gehrig and Ruth, they had the two most powerful hitters in their league; it was not uncommon for each of them individually to have more home runs in a year than many entire teams. Although the Yankees lost a close series in 1926, by 1927 they seemed invincible. Ruth set a record that year with sixty home runs, while Gehrig, the cleanup hitter, set his own record with 175 runs batted in. The Yankees became the first American League team ever to sweep the World Series, and then in 1928 they did it again. Although they did not play in a series again until 1932, the team still had an amazing record in the intervening years. In the 1931 season they set a record with 1,067 runs batted in; Gehrig's contribution to that total, 184 (including three grand slams in four days), is still an American League record.

In 1933, Gehrig became engaged to Eleanor Twitchell, a high-spirited socialite from Chicago. They were married that September in a quiet, private wedding one morning in their new apartment, close to the house which Gehrig had bought for his parents a few years before. Immediately after the wedding, a phalanx of motorcycle-riding police from their town, New Rochelle, escorted the couple to Yankee Stadium: not even getting married could make Gehrig miss a game.

In 1935, Ruth finally left the Yankees and, for one season, Gehrig was the team's uncontested star. Then Joe DiMaggio joined the team, and once again Gehrig was relegated to second place, batting clean-up behind a star. However, Gehrig, always a team player, did not resent

Lou Gehrig, catching ball

DiMaggio. Later in life, DiMaggio told the following tale: early in his first season with the Yankees, DiMaggio turned around and gave a look to the umpire, George Moriarty, after Moriarty had called two borderline balls as strikes. Moriarty, a long-time umpire who was not cowed by young stars, harshly told DiMaggio to turn back around. Gehrig, who was standing in the on-deck circle, shouted, "Leave the kid alone, George. If you call 'em right, he won't have to turn around."

With DiMaggio and Gehrig, the "Bronx Bombers," as the Yankees were dubbed, won two straight World Series over the New York Giants in 1936 and 1937. Gehrig still played on, going to work every day through broken fingers (at one point or another in his career, he broke every single finger at least once) and through the attacks of back pain which had recently started to plague him. Although occasionally stunts were employed to keep the streak alive, such as having Gehrig bat first and then immediately replacing him with a pinch-runner on days when his back pain was most excruciating, Gehrig was still one of the best, most reliable players in the game.

'Iron Man' of Baseball Gehrig Dies at the Age of (37)

…When Gehrig stepped into the batter's box as a pinch hitter for the Yankees on June 1, 1925, he started a record that many believe will never be equaled in baseball. From that day on he never missed a championship game until April 30, 1939—fifteen seasons of Yankee box scores with the name of Gehrig always in the line-up….

But as brilliant as was his career, Lou will be remembered for more than his endurance record. He was a superb batter in his heyday and a prodigious clouter of home runs. The record book is literally strewn with his feats at the plate….

But baseball has had other great hitters before, and other great all-around players. It was the durability of Gehrig combined with his other qualities that lifted him above the ordinary players and in a class all his own.

Source: New York Times (June 3, 1941): 1, 26.

During the off season after the 1937 World Series, Gehrig went to Hollywood and starred in a Western film called Rawhide. This wasn't his first attempt at Hollywood stardom—there had been some talk of Gehrig replacing Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, and some amusing photographs of Gehrig posing in a loincloth even appeared—but it was by far his most successful, even if the reviews were mixed.

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Famous Sports StarsBaseballLou Gehrig Biography - Growing Up, Taste Of Fame, College Ball, The Beginning Of A Legend, Chronology