Lou Gehrig was the first player to have the rule waived that required a player to be retired one year before he could be elected. At age 36, he was the second youngest player to be so honored (behind Sandy Koufax). He never had a formal induction ceremony. On July 28, 2013, he and eleven other deceased players including Rogers Hornsby received a special tribute during the Induction Ceremony, held during “Hall of Fame Induction Weekend”, July 26–29 in Cooperstown, New York.
Did You Know: Gehrig was the first baseball player to have his uniform number retired?
Baseball fans within and out of the United States tuned into cable TV network ESPN to watch Cal Ripken Jr surpass Lou Gehrig‘s 56-year-old record for consecutive games played (2,130 games). The game, between the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim still ranks as one of the network’s most watched baseball games (Baseball’s most-watched game was Game 7 of the 1986 World Series). Cal’s children, Rachel and Ryan, threw out the ceremonial first balls. Both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were at the game. Clinton was in the WBAL local radio broadcast booth when Ripken hit a home run in the fourth inning, and called the home run over the air. When the game became official after the Angels’ half of the fifth inning, the numerical banners that displayed Ripken’s streak on the wall of the B&O Warehouse outside the stadium’s right field wall changed from 2130 to 2131.
Everyone attending (including the opposing Angels and all four umpires) erupted with a standing ovation lasting more than 22 minutes, one of the longest standing ovations for any athlete; ESPN did not go to a commercial break during the entire ovation. During the ovation, Ripken did a lap around the entire Camden Yards warning track to shake hands and give high-fives to the fans.
“Tonight I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig. I’m truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath. This year has been unbelievable. I’ve been cheered in ballparks all over the country. People not only showed me their kindness, but more importantly, they demonstrated their love of the game of baseball. I give my thanks to baseball fans everywhere. Tonight, I want to make sure you know how I feel. As I grew up here, I not only had dreams of being a big league ballplayer, but also of being a Baltimore Oriole. For all of your support over the years, I want to thank you, the fans of Baltimore, from the bottom of my heart. This is the greatest place to play.”
Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez hit 23 career grand slams, the most by any player in Major League Baseball history. Meanwhile, Don Mattingly set the one-season record with six grand slams in 1987 – remarkably, the only grand slams of his major league career. Travis Hafner tied Mattingly’s Major League record in 2006.
Do you think Rodriguez will break Gehrig’s record? Would modern pitchers throw to Gehrig or would they walk in a bases loaded run? What do you think?
Career Grand Slam leaders: 23 – Lou Gehrig 23 – Alex Rodríguez 21 – Manny Ramírez 19 – Eddie Murray 18 – Willie McCovey 18 – Robin Ventura 17 – Carlos Lee 17 – Jimmie Foxx 17 – Ted Williams 16 – Hank Aaron 16 – Dave Kingman 16 – Babe Ruth 15 – Ken Griffey, Jr. 15 – Richie Sexson 14 – Jason Giambi 14 – Gil Hodges 14 – Mark McGwire 14 – Mike Piazza
“Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” – Lou Gehrig
That July 4 became “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day” at Yankee Stadium, the day Lou Gehrig delivered his “Luckiest Man” Farewell Speech:
“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a 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 I 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 have considered it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrows? 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 #NewYork 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 groundskeeper and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something. When you have a father and mother 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. I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. And I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”
Over a 15-season span from 1925 through 1939, Lou Gehrigplayed in 2,130 consecutive games. This streak ended on May 2, 1939 only when Gehrig became disabled by the fatal neuromuscular disease that claimed his life two years later. His streak, long considered one of baseball’s few unbreakable records, stood for 56 years, until finally broken by Cal Ripken Jr., of the Baltimore Orioles on September 6, 1995.
Gehrig accumulated 1,995 runs batted in (RBIs) in 17 seasons, with a career batting average of .340, on-base percentage of .447, and slugging percentage of .632. Three of the top six RBI seasons in baseball history belong to Gehrig. He was selected to each of the first seven All-Star games (though he did not play in the 1939 game, as he retired one week before it was held), and he won the American League’s (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award in 1927 and 1936. He was also a Triple Crown winner in 1934, leading the AL in batting average, home runs, and RBIs.
The streak began on June 1, 1925. Lou Gehrigentered the game as a pinch hitter, substituting for shortstop Paul “Pee Wee” Wanninger. The next day, June 2, Yankee manager Miller Huggins started Gehrig in place of regular first baseman Wally Pipp. Pipp was in a slump, as were the Yankees as a team, so Huggins made several lineup changes to boost their performance. Fourteen years later, Gehrig had played 2,130 consecutive games. In a few instances, Gehrig managed to keep the streak intact through pinch hitting appearances and fortuitous timing; in others, the streak continued despite injuries.
On April 23, 1933, a pitch by Washington Senators pitcher Earl Whitehill struck Gehrig in the head. Although almost knocked unconscious, Gehrig remained in the game.
On June 14, 1933, Gehrig was ejected from a game, along with manager Joe McCarthy, but he had already been at bat and received credit for playing the game.
In a June, 1934 exhibition game, Gehrig was hit by a pitch, just above the right eye and was knocked unconscious. According to news reports, he was out for five minutes. Helmets were not heavily introduced until the 1940’s. He left the game, but was in the lineup the next day.
On July 13, 1934, Gehrig suffered a “lumbago attack” and had to be assisted off the field. In the next day’s away game, he was listed in the lineup as “shortstop”, batting lead-off. In his first and only plate appearance, he singled and was promptly replaced by a pinch runner to rest his throbbing back, never taking the field. A&E’s Biography speculated that this illness, which he also described as “a cold in his back”, might have been the first symptom of his debilitating disease.
In addition, X-rays taken late in his life disclosed that Gehrig had sustained several fractures during his playing career, although he remained in the lineup despite those previously undisclosed injuries. On the other hand, the streak was helped when Yankees general manager Ed Barrow postponed a game as a rainout on a day when Gehrig was sick with the flu—even though it was not raining.
Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games played stood until September 6, 1995, when Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. broke it.