Lou Gehrig to a friend minutes after making his “Luckiest Man” speech on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.
Early in the day before being honored at Yankee Stadium, Lou Gehrig told a reporter, “There hasn’t been a day since I came up that I wasn’t anxious to get in uniform and out on the field. But today I wish I was anywhere but in this stadium.”
For the ceremony Lou Gehrig was standing on the field for one hour in between games of a doubleheader with the Washington Senators, as accolades and gifts descended upon him.
Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Postmaster James Farley, Yankee general manager Ed Barrow and current and former teammates and opponents were there. Besides gifts, they all gave Gehrig the one thing he did not want – sympathy. Continue reading →
Lou Gehrig and his mother Christina March 22, 1930 in St. Petersburg, FL at Yankees spring training.
Above is Yankee legend Lou Gehrig with his real mother in contrast to movie Gehrig and mom.
Elsa Janssen and Gary Cooper
Mrs. Gehrig: “I want you to be somebody.”
Lou: “Sure, Mom.”
Mrs. Gehrig Like your Uncle Otto, Louie. He went to university. He graduated. Don’t you see, Louie? That’s why I’m cooking at Columbia, so you can go there some day……and be an engineer like your Uncle Otto. Lou you are going to become an engineer like your Uncle Otto.”
Those are the words Mrs. Gehrig says to young Lou Gehrig in the 1942 movie The Pride of the Yankees. Continue reading →
The Sights & Sounds Of Yankee Stadium 1931 – Yankees vs. Red Sox
What follows is a rare and amazing 14 minutes of film.
Yankee Stadium on opening day April 14, 1931. Yankees versus the Red Sox. Happenings before and during the game.
What makes it so unusual is that the film crew was experimenting with syncing the sound to the action. So there are microphones recording what was being said or the resonant sounds of baseball. The players don’t quite know what to say when asked to speak. The natural sounds of the ballpark are just so different from today.
Batting practice with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Mayor Jimmy Walker throws out the first ball. An IRT train passes and stops beyond the left field bleachers. Everyone in the stands is well dressed as you’d expect. Large signs remind everyone that “Betting is prohibited.”
The lack of technology is pure pleasure. The advertising is on billboards same as now, but no ads or deafening music being blasted from speakers. Your visual senses are not assaulted by a jumbotron. Fans look at the field, no distractions.
No P.A. system. A guy with a megaphone comes out and announces each team’s battery – a term rarely used today – for pitcher and catcher.
Then there is not only a patriotic marching band entertaining fans, but all the players from both teams march along with the band.
The game itself is great to see, but the things you notice while the game is going on seem so foreign to a modern viewing audience. Continue reading →
Babe Ruth and Gary Cooper Get A Visit From Former Yankee Bob Meusel & His Daughter
When Babe Ruth played himself in the classic film The Pride of The Yankees (1942) he had not played for seven years. Since his retirement, Ruth’s weight had ballooned to 270 pounds. The Babe wanted to look good for the film, not that he would ever look as svelte as Gary Cooper, starring as Babe’s teammate Lou Gehrig, but at least he tried.
Before filming began Babe went on a diet and shed over 47 pounds to look more like he did in his playing days.
Some former Yankee teammates appeared for short cameos including Bill Dickey, Mark Koenig and Bob Meusel. Continue reading →
Why The New York Yankees Old Timer’s Day Has Become A Joke
1955 Old Timer’s Day (l-r) Frank Home Run Baker, Ray Schalk, Dazzy Vance, Ted Lyons, Gabby Hartnett and Joe DiMaggio (photo: Acme)
Sunday June 25, 2017 the New York Yankees will hold their 71st Old TImer’s Day.
There was a time when baseball’s immortals and Gods showed up at Old Timer’s Day games. Take a look at this video below and you can understand my disappointment at what passes today for Yankees Old Timer’s Day. If you have any sense of the history of baseball, this assemblage of players at Yankee Stadium taped on the field by Greg Peterson in 1982 will blow you away.
Maybe the disappointment stems from the fact that with a few exceptions there are almost no former Yankee players of the Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt; Allie Reynolds; Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra caliber still living. The pomp and ceremony of recent Yankees Old Timer’s Day is now somewhat revolting to watch.
Old-Timers Day started with a gathering unlike any other. In 1939 former Yankee teammates of Lou Gehrig gathered to honor him after he had stopped playing due to contracting the illness, (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) that would eventually take his life and now bears his name. It was at this occasion that Gehrig made his “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” speech.
Starting in the 1940s, Yankees Old Timer’s Day became an annual event where former baseball stars from other teams squared off against former Yankee greats. The players who graced the field at Yankee Stadium to play in a spirited and fun exhibition game were among the best to ever play the game. Over the years other teams held their own Old Timer’s Day. Now the Yankees are the only team in baseball that still holds an Old Timer’s Day .
At previous Old Timer’s Day fans would see opponents such as; Ty Cobb; Lefty Grove; Dizzy Dean; Al Kaline; Stan Musial; Ted Williams; Warren Spahn; Hank Greenberg; Bob Feller; Bill Terry; Pee Wee Reese; Duke Snider; Willie Mays and dozens of other “real” stars.
A collection of Hall Of Fame participants at the 1968 Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium (l-r) Red Ruffing; Bill Terry; Luke Appling; Bill Dickey; Joe Medwick; Frankie Frisch; Pie Traynor; Joe DiMaggio; Bob Feller and Lefty Grove.
As the Hall-of Famer’s and greats started passing away the names showing up at Old Timer’s Day gradually became less glamorous, until they started delving into quasi-stars and then marginal players.
I am not certain when exactly it ended, but the Yankees stopped inviting players from other teams to participate in Old Timer’s Day.
Over the last 15 years, you may have noticed Old Timer’s Day has become a Yankee love-fest of a few former stars such as Paul O’Neil, Roy White, Willie Randolph, Joe Pepitone and a lot of what can best be described as one season wonders or ordinary ex-Yankee players.
There are still some great former Yankee players who show up to participate in the festivities most notably Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage and this year a rare visit by Sparky Lyle.
Many of players the Yankees invite to Old Timer’s Day are nondescript. Yankee management must feel that today’s fans prefer seeing some of these “greats” that have participated in Old Timer’s Day over the last few years:
Brian Boehringer; Scott Bradley; Homer Bush; Bubba Crosby; Chad Curtis; Brian Dorsett; Dave Eiland; John Flaherty; Bobby Meacham; Jerry Narron; Matt Nokes; Dan Pasqua; Gil Patterson; Andy Phillips; Aaron Small; Tanyon Sturtze; Marcus Thames and others of that ilk. Continue reading →
A Commercial Recording Release By The Bambino and The Iron Horse
Recently I was reading an old New York Times column from October 7, 1956 by Gay Talese in which he wrote about the history of baseball records. Not home run or pitching records, but baseball related music and spoken word records.
In the article Talese mentions that one of the first record companies to release a baseball record was Pathe records in 1928 when they got Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to make a recording explaining how they hit home runs. It did not sell very well. Almost all baseball related recordings have traditionally done poorly with sales, with the exception of Take Me Out To The Ballgame written in 1908 by Albert Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth. Incredibly neither Von Tilzer or Norworth had ever attended a baseball game prior to writing their hit song.
So I searched for the Ruth – Gehrig recording on youtube and couldn’t find the exact recording mentioned in the article, but came up with this version instead. (Click on the youtube video below). Apparently it is the exact same record as in the Talese article, but Talese is mistaken about the content and the date.
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 →
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 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.
The Iron Horse Takes Some Time To Play With The Boys
After the New York Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on a barnstorming tour across the country.
This news photograph’s caption reads:
Back To Sandlot Days
Los Angeles- Lou Gehrig, Yankee slugger, is shown here at bat during a sandlot game between kid teams. On his barnstorming trip with Babe Ruth, Lou finds himself as much an idol with the kids as the great Bambino himself. And look at the kid behind the plate, ready to help his pitcher strike out Lou. ——11-2-27
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 →