Hall of Fame: Lou Gehrig (1939)

That would be like A-Rod and Pujols in one lineup, and I’m not sure even that’s enough.

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+  TB   SH
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
1923 20 NYY AL 13 26 6 11 4 1 1 9 0 0 2 5 .423 .464 .769 218 20 1
1924 21 NYY AL 10 12 2 6 1 0 0 5 0 0 1 3 .500 .538 .583 189 7 0
1925 22 NYY AL 126 437 73 129 23 10 20 68 6 3 46 49 .295 .365 .531 127 232 12
1926 23 NYY AL 155 572 135 179 47 20 16 112 6 5 105 73 .313 .420 .549 152 314 18
1927 24 NYY AL 155 584 149 218 52 18 47 175 10 8 109 84 .373 .474 .765 221 447 21
1928 25 NYY AL 154 562 139 210 47 13 27 142 4 11 95 69 .374 .467 .648 194 364 16
1929 26 NYY AL 154 553 127 166 32 10 35 126 4 4 122 68 .300 .431 .584 166 323 12
1930 27 NYY AL 154 581 143 220 42 17 41 174 12 14 101 63 .379 .473 .721 203 419 18
1931 28 NYY AL 155 619 163 211 31 15 46 184 17 12 117 56 .341 .446 .662 194 410 2
1932 29 NYY AL 156 596 138 208 42 9 34 151 4 11 108 38 .349 .451 .621 181 370 1
1933 30 NYY AL 152 593 138 198 41 12 32 139 9 13 92 42 .334 .424 .605 177 359 1
1934 31 NYY AL 154 579 128 210 40 6 49 165 9 5 109 31 .363 .465 .706 208 409 0
1935 32 NYY AL 149 535 125 176 26 10 30 119 8 7 132 38 .329 .466 .583 176 312 0
1936 33 NYY AL 155 579 167 205 37 7 49 152 3 4 130 46 .354 .478 .696 190 403 3
1937 34 NYY AL 157 569 138 200 37 9 37 159 4 3 127 49 .351 .473 .643 177 366 0
1938 35 NYY AL 157 576 115 170 32 6 29 114 6 1 107 75 .295 .410 .523 132 301 1
1939 36 NYY AL 8 28 2 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 5 1 .143 .273 .143 10 4 0
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---
17 Seasons 8001 2721 163 1995 101 790 .340 .447 .632 179 106
2164 1888 534 493 102 1508 5060

2 MVP awards (1927, 1936)
1 Triple Crown (1934)
7 All-Star Game (1933-1939)

Quick trivia question before we get started. True or False: no one has ever been elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame. If you said true, you’re right. No one has ever been elected to the Hall of Fame in a regular voting situation. However, if you said false, you are also right. Gehrig was voted in unanimously to the Hall of Fame in 1939. Read to find out what made him special (I realize you know the answer but read anyway).

Henry Louis Gehrig was born on June 19, 1903 in Manhattan. At 14 pounds, he was a massive baby, but it would not match the legacy he would leave in baseball. Neither of his parents approved of baseball as a profession, but he would go on to play for Columbia University. Initially, there was confusion about Gehrig playing for a professional, but ultimately, he was allowed to play (he was also an amazing fullback for the football team). Gehrig first garnered the attention of the baseball world by blasting a grand slam out of what is now Wrigley Field as a 17-year old.

His first few seasons in the majors (1923 and 1924) were unsuccessful in terms of playing time, but he would get the full-time job on May 31, 1925. The famous streak had begun. Gehrig really broke through in 1926, and he followed it up with an outstanding 1927 season with an astounding .374/.467/.765 (221 OPS+! Holy crap) with 47 HR and 175 RBI., but he was largely overshadowed (literally and figuratively) by Babe Ruth’s 60 homer season. The two would continue to compete but also become great friends, teaming to make the Yankees a marquee franchise. On June 3, 1932, Gehrig accomplished something Ruth could not by becoming the first player in baseball history to hit 4 home runs in a game (and a fifth had been taken away by a great catch), but John McGraw chose to retire the same day, leaving Gehrig overshadowed yet again.

The “Iron Man” had a few times where his streak could have ended before the magic 2,130 number. On April 23, 1933, he was struck in the head by a pitch, almost went unconscious, and still stayed in the game. A month and a half later, he was ejected from the game, but luckily, he had one at-bat already (thus, the streak continued). One year and one month later, he suffered a lumbago attack, so the Yankee skipper put him at lead-off and shortstop. He hit once (a single remarkably) and was replaced by a pinch-runner (some say that this might have been the first indication of what was to come). Gehrig also broke several bones while playing but never took a day off. Cal Ripken would later break the record.

Gehrig’s career and streak would end on May 2, 1939 when he took himself out of the lineup. His performance began steadily diminishing in the middle of the 1938 season, but he completely collapsed to begin the 1939 campaign. He took himself out of the lineup, discouraged but not sure what was happening. His wife took him to the Mayo Clinic, where he was diagnosed with ALS (I won’t get into too many details about this here, but look for a post closer to the day of his famous speech or on May 2; I want these to be more about the playing careers). On June 21, he would stand in Yankee Stadium and reveal his diagnosis. In December, he would be unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame in a specially called election in which he was the only player on the ballot (all things considered, whoever did not vote for him would have been kidnapped, strung up naked in public, scorched, skinned, and beaten severely before being suffocated, not to mention what would have happened to the body afterward).

The disease would slowly move up his body, and he died almost two years after his speech on June 2, 1941.

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