Tag Archives: The Pride of the Yankees

The Moment Lou Gehrig Stepped Down “For The Good Of The Team”

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.

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

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

The Pride Of The Yankees – Was The Film Really Reversed?

Gary Cooper, Lou Gehrig and The Mystery of Reversing The Film

The New York Times published an article on February 9, 2013 based off of research conducted by Tom Shieber that he posted on his web site, that disputes a long held belief about the classic Lou Gehrig film, The Pride of The Yankees (1942).

Gary Cooper Pride Swinging Left Handed

Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig (note the signature on the bat)

It had been reported for many years that the filming of the baseball action scenes were for the most part printed in reverse to accommodate righty Gary Cooper, who could not convincingly portray the left-handed Lou Gehrig.

We reported how the film was reversed in a previous post. But now Shieber has seemingly proven that Cooper did most of the scenes left-handed, without a reversal of the film when it was printed.

Interestingly Gary Cooper himself said in a 1956 Saturday Evening Post print interview that he could not do the action scenes left-handed, and the film had been reversed.

After you read Shieber’s full article, which makes a lot of sense, and watch the film, will you be convinced that Cooper did most of the film left-handed? I am.

Honoring Lou Gehrig, His Monument Unveiled – 1941

The Day The Yankees Paid Their Final Tribute To The “Iron Horse”

This monument ceremony seen below was supposed to take place July 4 1941, on the two year anniversary of Lou Gehrig Day in 1939.

Many baseball fans know that the New York Yankees began the tradition of Old-Timers Day with a ceremony on July 4, 1939 to honor Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse.” On that day, the Yankees brought together Lou’s old teammates to show their deep admiration for a man who exemplified everything the Yankees were about. At the last minute Gehrig was asked to say something to the packed house at Yankee Stadium.

The words he said, now known as, “The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech, live on in immortality because it was completely spontaneous and from the heart.

What you may not know, is that you really have never heard or seen that speech.

You have only seen or heard small portions of Gehrig’s speech, because believe it or not, there is not one extant movie or audio recording of Gehrig’s complete speech. Only snippets.

As incredible as it sounds with all those newsreel cameras present to record the activities at Yankee Stadium, no complete version of the speech has surfaced in all these years. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #10

Babe Ruth Shows Gary Cooper The Finer Points of Gripping A Baseball Bat

In the 1942 film The Pride of The Yankees which tells the life story of Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth took his role of playing himself very seriously.  He also wanted to make sure Gary Cooper got it right as well.

Babe shows Cooper where the trademark should be when holding a bat so it won’t shatter should he make contact.

Interestingly, Cooper is holding the bat left-handed as Gehrig was a lefty.  Even though Gary Cooper was good on a horse, he was not much of a baseball player.

For the filming of the movie, it was determined there was no way the right handed Cooper could convincingly swing a bat left handed. All the films sequences with Cooper hitting were shot with Cooper batting righty and the Yankee uniforms were reversed with the “NY”  emblem placed on the other side of his chest. Cooper would run to third after hitting the ball. The filmmakers then reversed the negative in these sequences so everything was in its right place in the final movie print and it would appear Cooper was running to first.  Hollywood magic at its simplest.

UPDATE 2/10/13 – Or was Cooper really playing left-handed? See the article here.

An Unseen Archive Of Lou Gehrig Memorabilia Goes To Auction

Some of Lou Gehrig’s Baseball Belongings and How They Remained Hidden For 70+ Years

 

1927 Yankee Infield Autographed Photo from L-R Gehrig, Lazzeri, Koenig, Dugan – @ Heritage Auctions 8 4 11

Lou Gehrig’s story as told in The Pride of The Yankees, the 1942 Hollywood version of his life, made it seem like there were no other women in Lou’s life except for his mother Christina and wife Eleanor.

 

In the August 2, 2011  New York Times is a story of how Lou seems to have dated at least one other woman.  That relationship apparently lead to the woman, Ruth Martin, having a friendship with Lou’s mother Christina for many years, beyond her relationship with Lou.  After Christina passed away in 1954, Ruth Martin inherited some of Lou’s  possessions. It is an interesting story.

Jeffrey Quick, Ruth Martin’s son, is selling these one-of-a-kind artifacts at Heritage Auctions on August 4, 2011.

Babe Ruth (Again) And Lou Gehrig – Recently Discovered Film Footage

Babe Ruth And Lou Gehrig On Film

The New York Times reports more film footage of the mighty Babe Ruth has been unearthed, this time from 1927 showing Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig up close and personal in a barnstorming tour.  The article goes on to say that in the Major League Baseball archives there is less than an hour’s worth of film footage of Ruth!  The majority of film footage that probably still exists resides in attics across the country waiting to be discovered. This film was found in a cellar in Illinois and shows Ruth and Gehrig in or around Sioux City, Iowa on October 18, 1927.

Gehrig and Ruth were good friends, had a presumed falling out (over mysterious circumstances) and eventually made up when Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis which ended up taking his life at the age of 37.

The public perception via film of Ruth and Gehrig together is not really when they are together at all.

Hollywood accomplished that trick with The Pride of the Yankees, the 1942 movie depicting the life of Lou Gehrig ,who is played by Gary Cooper. Babe Ruth plays himself in the picture.  No mean feat as Babe was already 46 years old and was significantly heavier than in his playing days.  Ruth would not be embarrassed.  Before the movie started shooting, Babe went on a diet and dropped a significant amount of pounds so he could play the part himself.

While the picture is embellished for the silver screen, it still covers a fair portion of Gehrig’s baseball accomplishments while telling more Lou’s devotion to his family and the love story between Eleanor Twitchell (the future Mrs. Gehrig) and Lou.  The movie almost never got made.  Producer Samuel Goldwyn knew nothing about baseball and knew from experience that baseball movies were never “big box office.” But Goldwyn had been shown a newsreel of Gehrig’s farewell speech at Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day by Niven Busch, a Goldwyn screenwriter. Busch was confident a movie about Gehrig would be a success. By the end of the newsreel Goldwyn was crying and had made up his mind to acquire the rights to Gehrig’s story. The end result was a success, with the picture being nominated for 11 academy awards, including best picture.

Here are some photos of The Babe and Lou together. (click to enlarge)

Gehrig and Ruth in a posed publicity photo

Ruth and Gehrig 1927

Babe Ruth Scores ahead of a Lou Gehrig Home Run

Four Greats- Lou Gehrig, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth 1928

Babe Ruth pays his respects at Lou Gehrig’s funeral June 4, 1941