Lou Gehrig (Henry Louis Gehrig)

Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig

Legendary Baseball Player. Despite his numerous baseball athletic records, he is best remembered for his farewell speech of July 4, 1939 in Yankee Stadium, in which he said goodbye to his fans. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, shortly after his retirement, and he was the first baseball player to have his number (4) retired. Born Heinrich Ludwig (Henry Louis) Gehrig in New York City to poor German immigrants, he was the only one of four children to survive to adulthood. His mother, Christina Fack Gehrig, cleaned houses and took in laundry to make ends meet, while his father, Heinrich, was in poor health due to epilepsy and was mostly unemployed. In 1921, he won a football scholarship to Columbia University, which he used to pursue an Engineering degree. Gehrig played both football (fullback) and baseball (first baseman) in college, and in 1923, baseball scout Paul Krichell saw him playing and was so impressed that he immediately signed him to the NY Yankees, and gave him an immediate signing bonus of $1,500, which Gehrig used to pay his sick parent’s hospital bills. In his first season, he batted .423 in his first 26 times at bat. At the end of his second year, he replaced the aging Wally Pipp at First Base, where he played for the next 13 years. Known as the Iron Horse for his durability, Gehrig set a record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games, which would only be broken in September 1995 by Cal Ripken, Jr. Despite his talent and athletic prowess, he was mostly known for his humility, his kind heart, and his winning attitude, and he was always thankful for the opportunities that professional baseball gave him; it was this genuine and honest humbleness that endeared him so much to his legions of fans. He would play well every day, despite suffering common baseball injuries such as a broken thumb, a broken toe, and back spasms, which he always ignored despite the pain. When Gehrig’s hands were x-rayed in the late 1930s, doctors found over 17 broken bones that had “healed” while Gehrig continued to play. His batting record was equally impressive, in that he topped .300 for twelve consecutive years. Overshadowed by the equally impressive Babe Ruth, the two men would come to dominate the Yankees during the early 1930s, and despite constantly being compared in the press, they remained friends until 1933. In 1927, after the Yankees won the World Series, Gehrig was selected for the Most Valuable Player Award. In 1928, Gehrig batted an outstanding .374 and tied with Ruth for Runs Batted In (RBIs) with 142. In September 1933, he married Eleanor Twitchell, the daughter of Chicago Parks Commissioner Frank Twitchell. The competition between the two men did eventually boil over due to an insult between the wives, when Eleanor Gehrig made an ill comment about Claire Ruth’s daughter’s clothing, and the two men would not speak to each other for the next six years. When Ruth left the Yankees to retire at the end of the 1934 season, it looked as if Gehrig’s time had come, but in 1936, a new player, Joe DiMaggio, came in and together, the two men dominated the game for the next three years. In 1938, Gehrig’s game playing became noticeably less than his normal best. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed him with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive muscular degenerative disease that is not curable. With a diagnosis of less than 3 years left to live, the news meant the end of Gehrig’s career. Sportswriter Paul Gallico suggested that the team have a Lou Gehrig recognition day on July 4, 1939. Speaking from his heart, Gehrig spoke his words of thanks to 62,000 fans, and telling them that he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth” despite all of his troubles. It was considered one of the most emotional moments in sports history. At the close of his short speech, Babe Ruth put his arms around his teammate and spoke to him for the first time in six years. After retiring, Gehrig worked for the community, until ALS forced him to give it up. Lou Gehrig died just two years later at age 37 at his home in Riverdale, New York. Today, ALS is still sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His headstone lists the wrong year of birth (1905), which was apparently done at the time of his death. While aware of the error, the Kensico Cemetery will not correct the headstone as it is not their property. Eleanor Gehrig never remarried, and now rests with her husband.


  • June, 19, 1903
  • New York, New York


  • June, 02, 1941
  • Riverdale, New York

Cause of Death

  • Lou Gehrig's disease


  • Kensico Cemetery
  • Valhalla, New York

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