Seventy-five years ago this Friday, on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig retired and made what is now baseball’s most memorable speech. The Iron Horse accomplished success to a level never seen before his time and very rarely seen since. Lou Gehrig played in the shadows of The Babe and Joltin’ Joe throughout much of his career but managed to gain great popularity among fans young and old with his kindness, work ethic and dependability. Gehrig was not only great IN the game, he was great FOR the game. Perhaps baseball’s greatest ambassador, Lou became the game’s greatest tragedy when his career was cut short by a disease that would later bare his name. Here’s a short list of some of Gehrig’s greatest feats:
7 All Star Games
Gehrig became an everyday player in 1925 but the first MLB ASG wasn’t played until 1933. It’s safe to bet that had there been earlier ASGs, Gehrig would’ve been in the AL dugout. Lou was voted an All Star in each of the 7 years the game existed during his career, including 1939, the year he retired due to physical deterioration.
2-Time AL MVP
The fact that he won two MVP awards is not the feat here. It’s the fact that he won his first
MVP in 1927 and played 10 more seasons before his second MVP. Yet another testament to
Gehrig’s sustained excellence throughout his career. He was great early on and maintained his
greatness at a remarkably consistent level throughout his career.
No More #4
When the New York Yankees retired Gehrig’s number in 1939 following his retirement, he became
the first player in baseball history to have that honor bestowed upon him.
In his most widely known statistic, Lou Gehrig started and played in 2,130 consecutive games.
His record earned him the nickname “The Iron Horse” and stood for over 56 years before Cal Ripken
Jr. surpassed the untouchable number in 1995. There’s no telling what the record would have been had Gehrig not been torn down by his disease.
Lou Gehrig’s salary over his 17-year career totaled a whopping $416,400. That’s insane,
considering Albert Pujols, a comparably polarizing player of the same position, will make more
than that in just 3 games this year with his 23 million dollar season salary. I’ll say that once again.
It takes Pujols 3 games to amass the total 17-year career salary of the great Lou Gehrig.
1934 Triple Crown Winner
Gehrig’s triple crown numbers were as follows: BA .363, HR 49, RBI 166. When Miguel Cabrera won the TC in 2012 he batted .330 with 44 HR and 139 RBI. Perhaps more impressive than that is the fact that Gehrig won his triple crown in his 12th season in the majors, showing once again the sustained greatness Gehrig displayed throughout his career.
13 Seasons of 100s
Lou sustained 13 consecutive seasons with at least 100 runs scored and 100 RBI. His dominance at the plate was astonishing and many players today would be happy to achieve Gehrig-like numbers in one or two categories. Gehrig himself was often in the top 5 of all batting statistical categories throughout his career.
23 Grand Slams
The Iron Horse performed as good as anyone in the clutch. His 23 career grand slams speak to his ability to hit the long ball and excite the fans. His 23 career slams are only one shy of the record held by Alex Rodriguez.
As baseball fans celebrate our nation’s independence this weekend, I hope they all take a moment to give a toast to one of baseball’s all-time greats. Recognize what Gehrig did for the game and for our country. Sit back and day dream with me about his awe-inspiring career that must have really been something to see. The country loved this man and we owe it to his memory.
“I would not have traded two minutes of the joy and the grief with that man for two decades of anything with another.” -Eleanor Gehrig, Wife of Lou
“He was a symbol of indestructibility, a Gibraltar in cleats.” -Jim Murray, Columnist