Thursday, June 12, 2014

Today is the saddest Yankee anniversary of all: Lou Gehrig's last game

An excellent read from Vahe Gregorian in yesterday's Kansas City Star.

It's widely believed that Gehrig played his last game on April 30, 1939, when his average had tumbled to .143 after he went hitless in his 2,130th straight start. 
In the Yankees' next game, two days later in Detroit, Gehrig benched himself "for the good of the team." He had taken his last at-bat in the major leagues. But he managed to play once more in Yankee pinstripes.
On June 12, 1939, 75 years ago this week, with two off-days scheduled after a series at the St. Louis Browns, the Yankees took the train west for an exhibition against the Kansas City Blues, their Class AA farm team.
Yep, 75 years ago to the day. Today. The saddest Yankee anniversary of all.
Weak and wracked with pain as Gehrig was, he was still the Yankees' captain, still traveling and delivering the lineup card to home plate before every game up to his scheduled appointment June 13 at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Only a day before his arrival there for the momentous diagnosis, Gehrig somehow mustered the energy to play three innings in the field and take an at-bat because of the turnout of 23,864 at Municipal Stadium (then known as Ruppert Stadium).
With the likes of Joe DiMaggio playing center field for the Yankees and Phil Rizzuto playing shortstop for the Blues, Gehrig batted eighth and tapped a meek grounder to second base. Reflecting the ravages of the disease, it made for a mean, incongruous ending to an illustrious career.
He told a reporter something had to be wrong with him, there was no other reason why his body would have deteriorated so quickly. He was taking a train to Minnesota, rather than join his teammates in New York.
Six days later, he received the diagnosis. Within two years - June 2, 1941... "the luckiest man on the face of the earth," the pride of the Yankees, the Iron Horse... was dead.

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