Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Lou and The Babe

The saddest day in American sports history: July 4, 1939
Yeah, I know. It's supposed to be The Babe and Lou.

Not here. Look, I revere Ruth, and when the subject of God comes up, I use the Bambino, because he's simply a god. There has never been - and never will be - anyone like him.

The. Best. Ever. No argument.

But Gehrig? Well, Lou is different. Brilliant in his own right, and if not for Babe Ruth, you'd have a hell of a debate on that "best ever" stuff.

Cobb? Sure. Mays? Of course. Musial? Bonds (controversially). Mantle. DiMaggio. So on.

And Henry Louis Gehrig.

He left us far too soon, on this day in 1941, not quite 38 years of age. If - such a brutal word - not for the disease that bears his name? Well, there would have been a lot more than the 493 home runs (second only to that Babe guy).

He was always connected to The Babe. Even today, June 2, many noted the fact that The Babe retired 80 years ago. Yes, he left the Boston Braves on June 2, 1935 after playing briefly in Boston with the hope of managing there.

Yet it was on June 2, 1925 that Wally Pipp had a headache, or so the story goes. Then Lou Gehrig, who had pinch hit for Pee Wee Wanninger the day before, took over at first base for Pipp, and didn't give the position up until May 1, 1939.

I know, Cal Ripken has the record, blah blah blah. Give me The Iron Horse in the days of doubleheaders, primitive (by comparison) medical efforts, wool uniforms, and train travel. Just one man's preference, with all due respect to number eight in Baltimore.

Shockingly, this is a picture I've never seen. Taken sometime in 1935.
They are connected forever, Ruth and Gehrig. Even in death, Ruth is buried in Gate of Heaven cemetery in Valhalla, NY. Gehrig? Next cemetery over - Kensico, also in Valhalla. They're a five-minute drive apart.

In 1927, Ruth hit 60 home runs. Gehrig hit a mere 47. Oh and this was at a time when players could still outhomer entire teams. Indeed both did just that.

Of course, famously, when Ruth hit the "called shot" in the 1932 World Series, guess who was up next? Gehrig. What did Gehrig do? Hit a home run. Just not as famously.

They're intertwined forever. The Babe and Lou. Ruth and Gehrig. The Iron Horse and The Bambino.

They share June 2nd for very different reasons.
Lou Gehrig's locker, Cooperstown, NY.
When I visited Ernest Hemingways house last year in Key West, a friend asked me to text a picture. She told me about how she cried when she saw his writing desk upon her own visit. That went through my mind when I saw Gehrig's locker this past April in Cooperstown. Thus the power.

Connected, even in death (1941)
I beg, plead, implore you to read Jonathan Eig's brilliant Luckiest Man. It is, arguably, the best sports biography I have ever read.

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