“Gehrig is certainly one of the Yanks’ prize locomotives – a veritable Iron Horse to pull the team along over the grades.”
-Will Wedge, The New York Sun, September 1931.
When journalist Will Wedge penned his epic description of Lou Gehrig little did he or anyone else realize the nickname would follow the Yankee great into eternity. Gehrig was the broad sholdered titan upon which the Yankees depended upon for stability, consistency, leadership and feats often otherworldly.
When Gehrig first entered the Yankee lineup at age 19 he was a boy filled with potential. When he exited the field for the final time, in 1939, he was a legend. Gehrig’s businesslike persona, his work ethic and his genuine decency was the counterbalance to Babe Ruth’s bigger than life bravado and late night debauchery. Gehrig established the Yankee corporate image that survives to this day, one of dignity coupled with an expectation of success.
Lou Gehrig And The Legend Of Replacing Wally Pipp.
Over the years, much has been made of how and why Gehrig replaced Wally Pipp in the Yankee lineup in 1925, particularly after Pipp was coming off of the finest season of his career. The popular version of the story has Pipp being held out of the lineup because of a headache. But the reality was simple: the Yankees were playing lousy baseball, entrenched in seventh place, where they would finish the season. Gehrig’s debut is more accurately portrayed in a story from the The New York Times.
“Miller Huggins took his favorite lineup and shook it to pieces. Wally Pipp, after more than ten years as a regular first baseman, was benched in favor of Lou Gehrig, the former Columbia fence-wrecker. The most radical shake-up of the Yankees lineup in many years left only three regulars of last season in the batting order – Dugan, Ruth and Meusel.”
In the 126 games in which Gehrig started, he hit .295 with 23 doubles, 10 triples, 20 home runs and 68 RBIs. Not bad for a rookie.
The Gehrig Rookie, A Baseball Treasure
To own a Gehrig rookie is to own more than a baseball card, more than an image printed on cardboard. Gehrig’s first card reminds us all of how greatness appears. While mortal, as proved by Gehrig’s early and unexpected death after contracting ALS, Gehrig’s presence in baseball history, baseball lore and baseball’s record books cast a formidable shadow to this day.
Even in lower grade examples, the Gehrig rookie ranks near the top of all rookie offerings, if not in terms of price, then in terms of relevance to the game itself.