The Story Of The End Of Lou Gehrig’s Consecutive Game Streak – May 2, 1939
Yankee captain Lou Gehrig stuns Tigers manager Del Baker, home plate umpire Steve Basil and umpires Red Ornsby and Bill Summers as Gehrig informs them he has benched himself. (photo AP)
Almost everyone knows something about Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse, and his consecutive game playing streak. But you’ve probably never seen the dreaded moment when Gehrig took himself out of the lineup ending his streak, except by seeing actor Gary Cooper do it in the famous 1942 movie The Pride of the Yankees.
This photograph above shows that actual moment that occurred 75 years ago today.
Since June 1, 1925 Lou Gehrig had appeared in 2,130 straight games over the past fourteen seasons with the Yankees. Gehrig played with sprains, concussions, back spasms, broken bones and illnesses that would have had a lesser man take at least a day off, go on the disabled list or convalesce in a hospital. But Gehrig didn’t just play. He played exceptionally, putting up outstanding numbers offensively and defensively while always conducting himself with grace and humility on and off the field.
So on Tuesday, May 2, 1939 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, nothing seemed out of the ordinary when Yankee captain Lou Gehrig came to home plate to deliver the starting lineup card.
But earlier in the locker room in a private talk, Gehrig informed Yankees manager Joe McCarthy that he was removing himself from the lineup because he “wasn’t doing the team any good.” McCarthy asked him if he was serious and Gehrig replied that he was. McCarthy then told Gehrig it would be as he wished.
Gehrig approached the plate and handed the lineup card without his name on it to home plate umpire Steve Basil and Tigers manager Del Baker. On the photo, you can see the shock and disbelief on the faces of the men gathered around Gehrig whose expression is one of complete dismay.
The thunderbolt news raced through both teams, then around the stadium and finally throughout the baseball world through the newswires that Lou Gehrig had taken himself out of the lineup and was ending his famous streak.
When the announcement was made over the public address system to the 11,379 fans in attendance of Gehrig’s voluntary withdrawal, it was suggested that he get a “a big hand.”
The New York Times reported a deafening cheer resounded as Lou walked to the dugout, doffed his cap and disappeared in a corner of the bench.
Lou Gehrig consoles Babe Dahlgren about replacing Gehrig in the Yankees line-up, May 2 1939
Ellsworth “Babe” Dahlgren who had waited since 1937 to start at first base for the Yankees, finally, but reluctantly got his chance. “I hated to break his streak,” said Dahlgren.
”I remember Lou taking the lineup card up to the plate that day. When he came back to the dugout he went over to the water fountain and took a drink. He started to cry. Lou stood there with a towel on his head, taking the longest drink I’ve ever seen anybody take.” Continue reading