Baseball Honors The Memory And Exploits Of Lou Gehrig, A Hero On And Off The Field

Lou Gehrig's Hall of Fame plaque explains his legacy in precious few words.Photo byUser R on en.wikipedia Public domain

By Dan Schlossberg

Lou Gehrig was just 37 when he died from amyothropic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on June 2, 1941. Major League Baseball will salute his legacy before every game played today.

It’s not a milestone anniversary — 82 years have passed — but Gehrig, like Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, deserves to be remembered, if not saluted.

He simply had more integrity, durability, and devotion to the game than anyone else — with the possible exception of Gehrig contemporary Hank Greenberg. Both were Hall of Fame first basemen in more ways than one but Gehrig has the misfortune of illness ending his career and his life ridiculously prematurely.

Gehrig actually died on the same month and day that he started his consecutive games playing streak in 1923. He played exclusively for the New York Yankees, for whom he won a Triple Crown, hit for the cycle, smashed four home runs in a game, and served as team captain.

The disease that killed him is a degenerative disorder that causes victims to lose motor skills, eroding their ability to walk, talk, eat, or breathe. There is no proven cure, though medical researchers in Israel seem close to discovering one.

BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, an Israeli bio-med company conducting Phase II clinical trials on ALS patients, claims that some patients treated with a cell therapy called NurOwn have shown dramatic improvement – even walking and talking after the malady had stopped those functions.

Like Gehrig, Senator Jacob Javits, and actor David Niven, most ALS patients die 2-5 years after symptoms begin. Only four per cent last longer than 10 years. The United States has an estimated 25,000 ALS patients.

“Lou Gehrig Day” is designed to raise awareness of ALS and funds for finding a definitive cure. Players will wear red patches and wristbands and individual clubs will mark the day in their home ballparks.

Active players Stephen Piscotty (Athletics) and Sam Hilliard (Braves) have personal connections to the disorder. The former lost his mother to the insidious disease in 2018, the same year the latter learned his father had contracted it. Mike Piscotty, Stephen’s father, is president of the ALS Cure Project and a Lou Gehrig Day committee member.

According to Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, “While ALS has been closely identified with our game since Lou’s legendary carer, the pressing need to find a cure remains. We look forward to honoring all the individuals and families, in baseball and beyond, who have been affected by ALS and hope Lou Gehrig Day advances efforts to defeat this disease.”

Gehrig’s name has lived on through the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, created in 1955 by Phi Delta Theta, his Columbia University fraternity. It goes annually to the player who best exemplifies the character of the long-time Yankees legend.

Gehrig was one of the game’s brightest stars when he was diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic. On July 4, 1939, when the Yankees held Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium, he gave a speech that was even more memorable than his Hall of Fame career.

“For the past two weeks, you’ve been reading about a bad break,” he told 61,808 teary fans at the celebrated Bronx ballpark. “Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

His gifts that day included a fishing rod and tackle from his teammates, candlesticks from the New York Giants, and a trophy from the Yankees featuring an eagle on top of a baseball. He even got a DON’T QUIT placard from the visiting Washington Senators.

A Bronx native who spent two years at Columbia before going directly to the Yankees in 1923 – the same year the stadium opened – Gehrig never made much money playing baseball. He got a signing bonus of $1,500 and had a peak salary of $39,000 a year.

Still, he played his heart out. Humble and low-key, especially when contrasted with bombastic teammate Babe Ruth, he produced 493 home runs, 1,995 runs batted in, and 1,888 runs scored on a .340 batting average. Only Ruth and Ted Williams topped his 1.080 lifetime OPS.

The soft-spoken first baseman played in 2,130 consecutive games -– ignoring broken fingers, lumbago, and multiple other aches and pains –- and hit .361 in seven World Series. Gehrig had 185 runs batted in, still an American League record, in 1931 and more than 150 RBI in six other seasons. He even knocked in 500 runs over a three-year span.

Only ALS stopped him.

“It’s a miracle he played at all in 1938,” says Jonathan Eig, author of Luckiest Man: the Life and Death of Lou Gehrig. “I think it’s the greatest achievement in the history of baseball. He had symptoms of ALS throughout the season but still hit .295 with 29 home runs and 114 runs batted in even though his muscles were melting away game by game.”

The first major-leaguer whose number was retired, Gehrig wore No. 4 because he batted fourth, following Ruth in the lineup of a team known as “Murderer’s Row.” His pictures and quotations are all over the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Yankees Museum, the Yogi Berra Museum, and Monument Park.

Modest to a fault, he once said, “I’m just the guy who’s in there every day, the fellow who follows Babe in the batting order. Whether he strikes out or hits a home run, the fans are still talking about him when I come up. If I stood on my head at the plate, nobody would pay any attention.”

Quiet and dignified, Gehrig had to be coaxed to the microphone on the day of his “luckiest man” speech.

“When he gave that speech, it was the first time many of the people in the ballpark heard him speak,” says Pinstripe Empire author Marty Appel. “Radio interviews were not that frequent so people in the ballpark did not realize he had such a strong New York accent.

“He didn’t need the support of Babe Ruth to be a great player – his performance on the field spoke for itself. His speech was a baseball moment that had nothing to do with playing. It was baseball’s Gettysburg Address.”

The record for consecutive games played eventually went to Cal Ripken Jr., who had the benefit of work stoppages that gave me occasional breathers. The night he passed Gehrig, Ripken told the gathered Baltimore fans, “Tonight I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig. I’m truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath.”

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ grew up in Passaic, went to Syracuse, and wrote more than 40 baseball books. E.mail him at

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 0

Published by

The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America represents hundreds of writers and content creators wherever baseball is played all over the world, ranging from hobbyists to professionals and everywhere in between. Learn more at or follow @ibwaa on Twitter.

New York, NY

More from IBWAA

Detroit, MI

Detroit Tigers: Evaluating the System for Seasons Ahead

By Joe Underhill Another September and another losing season is coming to a close for the Detroit Tigers. The focus for Tigers fans now shifts to saying farewell to a future Hall of Famer in Miguel Cabrera, who has a legitimate chance to climb a few more spots on the all-time lists before his season ends. The focus for fans should be the auditions taking place in Detroit and on the farm for roles next year. The focus here will be on the Tigers currently under contract for next year and who fans should be keeping tabs on as AJ Hinch and Scott Harris work to put a playoff-caliber team on the field in Detroit for the first time in almost a decade. Outfield: Currently on the 40-man: Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter, Riley Greene, Austin Meadows, and Parker Meadows. In the minors: Justyn-Henry Malloy (AAA), Wenceel Perez (AAA), Justice Bigbie (AA), Max Clark (low A). What do all of the full-time outfielders on the 40-man have in common? They are all left-handed hitters. Of this group, Austin Meadows has missed the majority of the past two seasons dealing with an injury and an anxiety disorder and is at the greatest risk of being non-tendered. Parker Meadows, Riley Greene, and Kerry Carpenter have solidified their roles. Akil Baddoo has the most to prove offensively, but his defense has been above average. Carpenter, OPS+ 136 and Greene OPS+ 116, have been the Tigers’ best hitters. Matt Vierling has played the majority of his games in the outfield but is being transitioned into more of a utility role by playing third base. Vierling plays strong outfield defense in the corners and can cover center in a pinch. Justyn-Henry Malloy and Wenceel Perez will come to spring training looking to compete for place on the roster. Malloy has a strong right-handed bat, slashing .292/.432/.509 including 23 home runs and over 100 walks. At AA, Justice Bigbie has been the story of the Tigers’ minor leagues. He has hit over .350 across high A and AA. Bigbie and Malloy share a challenge, though: defense. Both Malloy and Bigbie will figure into Detroit’s plans sooner rather than later due to their bats, but defense will determine how much playing time they’ll get. In the low minors, the most exciting prospect is Max Clark, who is already flashing the potential five-tool package that enticed the Tigers to select him third overall. Utility: Currently on the 40-man: Nick Maton, Zach McKinstry, Tyler Nevin, Wenceel Perez, Matt Vierling. Of this group, McKinstry and Vierling have pretty strong grips on utility roles, with Vierling being the only right-handed outfielder currently on the roster. McKinstry has been a very productive player, even though is OPS+ is only 80. With Parker Meadows moving Greene to a corner, Verling has begun to see more time at third base. Nevin can play all four corners but is more of an infielder. He has raked at AAA, slashing .326/.400/.543 for an OPS of .943. The only problem is he has not been able to translate that success at the major-league level, slashing only .132/.242/.189. Perez has made the shift from the dirt to the outfield this season and has taken to the outfield quite well. He is a switch-hitter who brings speed (25 steals) and an OPS of .802 across three levels in the minors in 2023. The challenge for Perez will be overcoming the “yips” that showed up on his throws from second base. His path to playing time will be tied to his ability to play the utility role. Infield: Currently on the 40-man: Javier Baez, Andy Ibanez, Ryan Kreidler, Eddys Leonard, Andre Lipcius, Nick Maton, Wenceel Perez, Zack Short, and Spencer Torkelson. In the minors: Colt Keith (AAA), Jace Jung (AA), Kevin McGonigle (low A). Javy Baez probably won’t exercise his buy-out after a bad year in Detroit. Baez has an opt-out, but based on how poorly his offensive season has gone, he is unlikely to utilize it. Baez has continued to play solid-to-above-average defense at shortstop. Torkelson’s power has come on since June and he now leads the team with 25 home runs and has risen his OPS+ above 100. Defensively the numbers don’t like Tork’s defense, but the eye test suggests he is a solid defender at first. Second and third base are the positions where there is the most movement. McKinstry, Short, Ibanez, Vierling, and now Lipcius are all seeing time at the positions. The Tigers are hoping Keith shows enough aplomb to be able to handle the majority timeshare at third base. The biggest defensive challenge for Keith is rebuilding his throwing strength after a shoulder injury in 2022. Kreidler won a sport on the initial roster, but injury derailed his season. Kreidler and Short are natural shortstops, who both bring plus defense, but question marks with the bat. Lipcius is auditioning to play second and third next season. Maton began the year with the Tigers but struggled with the bat. He’s hit well at AAA and will come to spring training competing for a spot. If Jung continues to hit and show solid defensive acumen, he will be in the picture at second base at some point in 2024. Catcher: Currently on the 40-man: Carson Kelly, Jake Rogers, Donny Sands (AAA). In the minors: Dillon Dingler (AAA). Catching depth is a major concern for the Tigers, who cut ties with Eric Haase and added Carson Kelley in mid-season. Rogers has shown a solid ability to hit for power (16 home runs) while playing excellent defense. Sands and Dingler are time-sharing in AAA and will be joining the competition in spring training. This is an area to expect to see the Tigers looking to add to the competition in the off-season. Starting Pitching: Currently on the 40-man: Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning (IL), Casey Mize (IL), Reese Olson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Spencer Turnbull, Joey Wentz. In the minors: Sawyer Gipson-Long (AAA), Keider Montero (AAA), Jack O’Loughlin (AAA), Ty Madden (AA), Brant Hurter (AA), Wilmer Flores (AA). The expectation is Eduardo Rodriguez will opt out at the end of the year, and it will be interesting to see if Scott Harris tries to resign him. Rodriguez has been rock-solid for the Tigers and seems to have enjoyed his time in Detroit. The rest of the rotation depth has a lot of question marks regarding health. Mize is still working his way back; Manning just suffered a second foot fracture as a result of a batted ball. Turnbull is working to rediscover his command and control of his pitches and has been optioned to the minors. The Tigers have been playing with using Brieske and Faedo out of the bullpen, but they will come to spring training as part of the competition for the rotation. Right now, the rotation is going to be anchored by Skubal and Olson, with the back three spots up for grabs. Olson has had a strong rookie year and has placed himself firmly in the rotation plan moving forward. This is an area where I would expect the Tigers to go after a veteran or two (similar to last year with Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen). Bullpen: Currently on the 40-man: Tyler Alexander (IL), Miguel Diaz, Mason Englert (IL), Jason Foley, Garrett Hill (minors), Tyler Holton, Alex Lange, Freddy Pacheco, Andrew Vasquez, Will Vest, Brendan White, Trey Wingenter (minors). The bullpen has been a strength for the Tigers this year. Tyler Holton has been a phenomenal this year and worked into leverage situations. The same can be said for Jason Foley, Brendan White, and Will Vest, who are all young pitchers growing into reliable arms. The Tigers have also been deploying Beau Brieske and Alex Faedo in the bullpen and both have had good success. Depending on how the competition for the rotation plays out either or both could find themselves pitching in leverage situations in the bullpen. Expect a few low-profile signings/waiver claims in the off-season to build the competition going into spring training. Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for You can follow Joe on Twitter@TransplantedDet.

Read full story

Opinion: Maury Wills Deserves a Niche in the Baseball Hall of Fame

By Dan Schlossberg One of the most stringent standards for Hall of Fame considerations is whether a candidate changed the game. Maury Wills certainly qualifies. In his 14-year career, Wills was a seven-time All-Star who won three World Series rings, two Gold Gloves, and an MVP trophy. He revolutionized the use of speed as a vital part of the offense, stealing a then-record 104 bases in 1962. That broke Ty Cobb’s record of 96, which had stood for 47 years. Neither Babe Ruth’s nor Hank Aaron’s home run records lasted that long. When Wills was in the minors, Spokane manager Bobby Bragan would make frequent calls to Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi urging his promotion to the majors. "Bobby would call six times a day and tell me over again how Wills had learned to switch-hit and how he was a great team leader, off and on the field, and how I was absolutely nuts if I didn't bring him up right away," Bavasi said. Wills was finally promoted to the majors in June of 1959 after batting .313 in 48 games for the Pacific Coast League club. He never looked back. A switch-hitter who led the National League in stolen bases six years in a row, Wills hit .281 with 586 steals. He would have had more except for his late start; he was 26 when he arrived in Los Angeles. Wills parlayed his speed into several championships for the Dodgers, starting in his very first season. The ‘59 Dodgers finished in a tie with the Milwaukee Braves, then won the first two games of an unscheduled best-of-three pennant playoff. The banjo-playing shortstop even supplemented his then-meager baseball salary by singing and cutting records during the off-season. Wills spent 12 years with the Dodgers, sandwiching his stints around stops in Pittsburgh and Montreal. He later managed the Seattle Mariners. Like Lou Whitaker, Maury Wills was a star infielder who somehow got overlooked by the Hall of Fame. It’s an oversight that needs to be corrected. Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ writes baseball for, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Memories & Dreams, and others. Contact him at

Read full story

Opinion: It’s High Time To Shrink the Playoffs, Scrap the Wild-Card

By Dan Schlossberg Sorry, guys, but I’m not wild about the wild-card. I hated it when there was one wild-card winner in the playoffs, hated it more when there were two, and absolutely detest the fact that there are three — expanding the post-season into a tournament that reeks of football, basketball, and hockey. Baseball has a 162-game schedule for a reason: to determine the best team between the end of spring training and the start of the post-season. Anything that creates the slightest chance that the best teams won’t reach the World Series is a travesty. For example, the Miami Marlins managed to win two world championships without ever finishing first. In 31 seasons, including this one, the Fish have never won the NL East. The 2002 Los Angeles Angels won their only World Series by getting hot when it counted, riding a wild-card into a world championship over another wild-card, the San Francisco Giants. Though obviously a bold-faced revenue grab, the wild-card system was supposedly designed to retain interest in cities whose teams dropped out of contention in September. To the contrary, the wild-card justifies mediocrity, creating the very real possibility that a team with more losses than wins can get hot just in time to win a world championship with a losing record. That would be a black mark against the game, as is anything that compromises the integrity of the World Series. With six divisions in baseball today, isn’t there enough interest in the races for the division titles? It’s a good storyline that the Los Angeles Dodgers have reached the playoffs 11 years in a row and the Atlanta Braves have the longest active streak — which will reach six this year — and also own the longest title streak (14) since the 1969 advent of divisional play. Except for the East and West divisions of the National League, all of the divisions have real races going on. There are even three-team races in two of those four, the AL West and NL Central. The American League East race is intriguing because every team is likely to finish over .500, while the American League Central is the weakest division in the land. While wild-card standings change almost daily, does anyone really care about them? MLB Network keeps trying to make that case but isn’t very convincing. The wild-card also weakens the trade deadline, with way too many teams (notably the 2023 Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres) thinking they’re still alive. That stifles trading and deprives fans of the most exciting aspect of baseball season between the All-Star Game and the playoffs. Since baseball would be better balanced with 32 teams rather than the current 30, why not realign into four eight-team leagues, each split into divisions of four, and send the wild-card to the dustbin of baseball history? Baseball has made plenty of changes, especially recently, but focusing on champions rather than also-rans would be an enormous improvement. What say you, Rob Manfred? Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 42 baseball books and a national baseball writer for Email him at

Read full story

Comments / 0