Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hall of Fame Profile: Lou Gehrig - Article Revisit


This was originally posted by our writer, and my very good friend, Bryan Knepper back in April of 2013, seen here, and we bring it back to you for Lou Gehrig Bobblehead Day at Yankee Stadium. Enjoy the post as we enjoy Gehrig's career and accomplishments today in the Bronx and all across Major League Baseball on July 4th.

The second player inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee was Lou Gehrig.




Full Name: Henry Louis Gehrig (Ludwig Heinrich Gehrig)

Born: June 19, 1903  Died: June 2, 1941

Nickname(s): The Iron Horse, Buster, Biscuit Pants

Hall of Fame Induction: 1939 (by special election...results were not reported)

Teams Played for: New York Yankees (1923-1939)

Retired Jersey: #4 by the New York Yankees in 1939 (the first number to be retired in MLB history)

Career Statistics (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com):

Batting Average: .340 (17th all-time)
On-Base %: .447 (5th all-time)
Slugging %: .632 (3rd all-time)
OPS: 1.080 (3rd all-time)
HR: 493 (26th all-time)
RBI: 1992 (5th all-time)
Runs: 1888 (11th all-time)
Hits: 2721 (59nd all-time)
2B: 534 (34th all-time)
BB: 1508 (17th all-time)

WAR: 112.6 (18th all-time)
Grand Slams: 23 (tied for 1st with Alex Rodriguez)
MVPs: (2) 1927, 1936 <8x voted in the top-5>
All-Star Appearances: (7) 1933-1939
Uncommonly Known Fact: Lou was a pitcher for Columbia when he was signed by the Yankees.

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Lou Gehrig, the "Iron Horse" made his debut with the New York Yankees as a 19-year old in 1923 in the "House that Ruth Built."  The two were forever linked as part of the famed 1927 Murderer's Row and The Babe was there on the day that Lou's career ended in 1939 for one of the most famous sentences spoken in public in history.  In between his debut and the disease named for him that ended his baseball career and shortly thereafter his life, he played in 2,130 games consecutively garnering the "Iron Horse" moniker.

In his first 2 seasons with the Yanks, he only made 23 appearances as he would play for minor league Hartford for most of 1923 and 1924.  He wasn't on the roster for the Yankees first World Series title, but would make an impact in 1925 batting .295 with 20 home runs as a rookie in 437 at-bats.  The 1925 season would also usher in his streak of 2,130 games played beginning on June 1, 1925 and ending on April 30, 1939.  This streak would stand until Cal Ripken, Jr would break it in 1995.  Lou's breakout season would be 1926, in which he compiled some pretty mind-blowing numbers for a 23-year old: a .313 batting average, 135 runs scored, 179 hits, 47 doubles, 20 triples, 16 home runs, and 109 RBI.  This is just another reason why the #23 is so important to this Yankees fan.

The numbers put up by the AL MVP Gehrig in 1927 could quite possibly be the greatest offensive year ever had by a Major Leaguer.  His numbers as the anchor in the Murderer's Row were as such: a .373 batting average, 149 runs scored, 218 hits, 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs, 175 RBI (a new MLB record), and 447 total bases (3rd all-time). He compiled a .765 slugging percentage and a 1.240 ops that season.  In the World Series that year, he helped the 110-win regular season Yankees sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates with a .308 average, 2 triples, 4 RBI, and a 1.158 ops.

The next 2 times the Yankees would be in the World Series, Gehrig would prove to be the dominant force in sweeps over St. Louis in 1928 and the Chicago Cubs in 1932 batting .545 with 4 home runs, 9 rbi, and a 2.433 ops in 1928 and .529 with 3 home runs, 8 rbi, and a 1.718 ops.  These stats would help him compile a career postseason triple slash of .361 / 10 / 35 in 119 at-bats against the best competition in baseball.  There was a reason the Yankees won 6 World Series titles from 1927-1938, and it was Lou Gehrig.  From 1930 to 1932, Gehrig compiled a record 509 runs batted in.  No one has ever combined for that many RBI in ANY 3 seasons of their career, let alone in 3 consecutive years.  He also hit 23 grand slams in his 17-year career, a record that stood by itself until just recently when fellow New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez tied it.  Gehrig would become the first player of the "modern era" to hit 4 home runs in a game coming against the Philadelphia Athletics on June 3, 1932.  He would have had 5 home runs that day had Al Simmons missed a ball that was caught over the wall.

The 1938 season was below average for Gehrig as his numbers diminished to a .295 batting average (down from .351 in 1937), 29 home runs, and 114 RBI.  He made comments to the fact that he felt slower and not himself.  On May 2, 1939 after going hitless, Gehrig took himself out of a game, which would be the first he had not played in since June 1st of 1925.  On a trip to Chicago, he would visit the famed Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN where he would later be diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis  (ALS), which is commonly known today as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."  He would never play in another baseball game and would die from the disease on June 2, 1941.  On July 4, 1939, the Iron Horse was honored by the New York Yankees in front of an emotional crowd in which he spoke his famous "luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech.  He was joined by his beloved teammate Babe Ruth who would later succomb to cancer and join Gehrig in the afterlife.  Below is the full speech given by Lou that day:



"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men.
Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that's the finest I know.
So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you."

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