Friday, June 1, 2018

Happy Lou Gehrig Day

On this day in 1925, Lou Gehrig began his 2,130-consecutive game streak, pinch-hitting for the immortal Pee Wee Wanninger against Walter Johnson, before 10,000 fans at Yankee Stadium.

The Iron Horse flied out to left against The Big Train, as the Yankees lost, 5-3, to fall 11.5 games behind the—and this will sound funny—defending world champion Washington Senators (even weirder:  at the time, the Yankees and the Senators had the exact same number of rings).

A couple of interesting historical quirks here: Wanninger had ended shortstop Everett Scott's 1,307-game consecutive streak—the longest before Gehrig's—back on May 6.  And Wally Pipp was playing first on that long-ago June 1, and stroked a single.

The next day, though, Gehrig started at first, pounded two singles and a double, and the rest was history.

Weirdly, the reasons for Pipp's benching are STILL disputed.  Some attribute it to Pipp's life-threatening, batting-practice beaning at the hands of Ray Caldwell (they took batting practice seriously, back in the day), one that left him in the hospital for a month.

That happened—but only on July2, after Gehrig had already taken his position.  Others attributed it to another beaning, during an earlier game.

Some feel that manager Miller Huggins simply wanted to shake the team up, and the aging Pipp was slumping.  There were even rumors—subscribed to by Gehrig's wife, among other, who was a former baseball annie and not always the most reliable of sources—that Wally was away betting on the horses, though his kids vehemently deny that.

Whatever the case, the streak started on this day.  And the usual what-ifs are intriguing.

If Gehrig had not contracted ALS, his streak could easily have lasted through at least 1941, when he would have been 38, and put another 450 games or so on it.  And with the weakening of wartime competition, he might have been able to play right through 1945—over 600 games more!—before the boys came home.  (Though it's difficult to conceive of an upstanding individual such as Lou Gehrig ever being a slacker.)



TheWinWarblist said...

Dammit, I loved Lou Gehrig. Still due. Love the guy, love him. Horrible way to go, dying that way. But Lou Gehrig dying of Lou Gehrig's Disease? How'd we not see that coming?

HoraceClarke66 said...

It was a cosmic coincidence!!

I loved the way that Mrs. Babe Ruth, Ruth's daughter, and Mrs. Lou Gehrig used to be trotted out for years at Yankee Stadium pre-game ceremonies. Always in their widows' weeds, like so many Mafia wives!

Rufus T. Firefly said...

ALS is a terrible disease.

Local Bargain Jerk said...

ALS is a terrible disease.

TheWinWarblist said...

T'is that, Rufus and LBJ. Have seen it first hand too many times. It is that.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Didn't they have some breakthrough in its treatment recently?

At the time, somebody referred to it as a form of polio, so some writer—I think it was Jimmy Powers—wrote that there was a chance that Gehrig could have infected his teammates with polio.


Anonymous said...

How did he not see that coming? C'mon--that's from the Henny Youngman joke book, circa 1948. Not an original joke.

One of the funniest riffs on this was Norm Macdonald's on SNL from many years ago--can't find it on youtube, though. If anyone can find it, please post.

Anonymous said...

Apparently no one can find the complete Gehrig stadium speech on film--only fragments. But I could swear that I saw the complete filmed speech on July 4, 1989, on NBC's baseball pregame show with Gayle Gardner. She said that they found it in the newsreel archives of the Pathe company. I wish I had had the VCR running. If anyone ever runs across the complete speech on film, please give a heads up here.