Lou Gehrig was just 38 years old when he passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or chronic poliomyelitis – infantile paralysis. It’s a lot easier to just say Lou Gehrig’s Disease and that’s what most people now know it as. It was a full life tragically cut short. Gehrig was a man who happened to play baseball and who happened to inspire a nation. His most-famous teammate, Babe Ruth, almost seems the exact opposite of Gehrig, who was a quiet, honorable, and selfless person.
This particular book about Gehrig by Frank Graham, written in 1942, was a quick, easy read and a great overview of the ballplayer’s life. Here are some things I learned about Lou Gehrig:
- He held the record for most-consecutive games played for 56 years at 2,130 games. Cal Ripken finally broke the record in 1995. To attain this record, Gehrig had to play some games in excruciating pain as his disease began to spread.
- Gehrig was not a natural athlete. He had to work very hard and was oftentimes the first one at practice and the last to leave a game.
- Growing up, Lou daily helped his parents with work.
- He only missed a half-day of school growing up. He was very sick one day and was pretty much forced to go home. You can see this work ethic in his consecutive games record.
- Lou went to Columbia University in New York
- At Columbia, he was nearly sidelined for his entire college career by playing baseball in a summer league, something that unbeknownst to him, was prohibited and carried a hefty penalty.
- When Lou was first called to the Yankees, he walked into the locker room and meets Babe Ruth, his childhood hero, for the first time.
- Lou started playing for the Yankees in June 1925.
- Lou experienced some slumps in his career and was usually talked out of them by a close friend.
- After being called up to the Yankees in the 20’s, the manager sent Lou to the minor leagues for 2 years. This greatly disappointed Lou, but the manager said the minors were the best thing for him. In the minors, he would play daily. If he stayed in the majors, he would sit the bench and atrophy.
- Gehrig, while a Yankee, was arrested for playing baseball late into the night with the neighborhood kids. They were making a lot of noise. He was let off when the cops realized who he was.
- In 1931, Lou and Babe Ruth tied at 46 home runs for the year. Lou actually hit 47, but mistakenly passed a base runner on one of the homers and that disqualified the home run.
- After being diagnosed with his disease and no longer able to play baseball, New York Mayor La Guardia called up Gehrig and offered him a position at the New York City Parole Board where he would be able to impact the lives of youth. Gehrig gave his all to the job and was the position he held upon his death on June 2, 1941.
I’m curious as to why Cal Fussman listed this as one of his favorite books. I liked it, but it wasn’t earth-shattering. Maybe Fussman connected with Gehrig as someone to emulate. Someone to admire. I will try to ask him on Twitter.
It must have been Larry King who suggested this particular book per my correspondence with Cal Fussman below:
To be completely transparent. I don’t ever remember recommending it. . . .
I remember recommending West with The Night by Beryl Markham. I always recommend 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I don’t recall how it might’ve come up. But I’m glad you enjoyed it.
— Cal Fussman (@calfussman) July 23, 2018
This is book 26 of 52 of Erik’s 2018 Books of Titans reading list.