How Lou Gehrig described his debilitating, ending streak to The Sporting News in 1939
Lou Gehrig played what would be his last big-league game on April 30, 1939, at age 35. Days later, the Yankees legend known throughout his playing days as “Laruppin ‘Lou” spoke to The Sporting News for an honest and in-depth look at the days and months leading up to the end of its historic streak of 2,130 in a row. games played.
The quotes in this article were all published in the May 11, 1939 issue of The Sporting News.
Back then, of course, there was no diagnosis of the disease that would eventually bear his name and legacy in the future. All Gehrig knew was that his body was not functioning like it used to be and that something was wrong. Gehrig gave his famous “luckiest man” speech on July 4, 1939, and died on June 2, 1941, just 17 days before his 38th birthday.
On MLB’s Lou Gehrig day one, let’s take a look back at the legend’s conversation with The Sporting News. Before I get there, here’s how this column, written by publisher JG Taylor Spink, ended. These words were in italics.
As Gehrig sits on the bench, baseball fans feel a distinct loss. Within a week, it has undergone a development that will deserve some emotional management in the history of the game, when it is written.
Lou Gehrig, on his physical struggles this spring
“Talk about that? Sure. Why not? It’s no shame. The day is coming to all ball players. But please don’t turn on the tremolo and do an obituary. I’m out, but not depressed I think I’ll be back in the lineup in three weeks I do a lot of running and getting in shape.
“My so-called collapse was my fault. I forgot to look at the calendar. I spent the off season driving in a car and sitting in a boat. I went to get a newspaper two blocks away. I should have jogged, and I should have come to training camp with my legs suited for the task.
“I always looked forward to the opening game as a big tonic. But this year, for some reason, the bell failed to wake me up. I immediately knew something was wrong. not going at all.
“As I was not showing any improvement, I started to consider leaving training. It was not an easy decision to make. But I have always been a team man and I have never lost sight of the well-being of the Yankees, and the debt I owe baseball and the fans.
“On Sunday April 30, we suffered our second straight Senators loss at the stadium. I had arrived at a few places with the chance to win the game.
“In the ninth, Buddy Myer slapped me one, and the other years I would have put the ball in my back pocket. But it was a tough game for me, and I threw at Murphy, who had covered. the bag.
“When I got back to the bench, the boys said, ‘Great game, Lou’. I was like, “Heaven, has it reached this point?
Lou Gehrig, the day the streak ended
“Well, I had quite a few problems with myself driving up to Larchmont. I decided to get out of the queue. I informed Elanor (Mrs Gehrig) of my decision and she Advised me to take it slow I thought about it overnight I tried to get Joe McCarthy that afternoon, but found out he had gone to his home in Buffalo.
“Tuesday, Joe arrived from Buffalo to Detroit, and as soon as he got there I took him into the lobby and told him if it was okay with him, I would record the record and calm down for a while. .
“We went up to his room and he agreed that I had better resign for a few weeks. I told Joe that I was not good for the club, myself, the game, the fans and McCarthy.
“I left for the stadium immediately. Then it was time to hand the batting order over to umpire Basil. And instead of getting ready to hit, I found my place on the bench. They say I cried.
“The sensations I felt from that moment on cannot be described. I cannot remember what I felt sitting in the canoe when for the first time in 2,131 matches another man took part in a competition for me.
“After the game I dressed somehow. I was still stunned when I walked into the room. Bill Dickey, my roommate, tried to make a joke of it and told me. consoled. But I had arrived at the day when I feared it. for a long time, and for 24 hours I was numb. “
Lou Gehrig, on whether the streak has ever been threatened
“Yes, once – and only once. It was in 1934, in Detroit. I had severe back pain. I had to call out of bed to get up. Doc Painter had to get dressed. I wanted to stay in. bed but the club officials urged me not to break the record. I had to be dressed and undressed in the clubhouse. I went up once, I was single – and I left the game.
“When Whitehill hit me in the head in Washington, it wasn’t a problem. A doctor examined me and ordered me to leave the game. I said, “So you’re in cahoots with the Senators!” I continue. I then made a home run to win the game.
“A few years ago Ray White from the Norfolk club hit me on the head in an exhibition game. They said I was almost killed. Well the next day we played Washington I had three consecutive triples and lost them all because the game ended in the fourth with a baby hurricane.
“The big problem that day was getting me a cap. They took one of Ruth’s 7 1/2 caps and cut the seams so I could fit in. I had a button on my head too. as big as a coconut.
“No, only that time when I had back pain, I was about to stop. And I had broken fingers and toes, aches and pains and aches like every other man. I decided to go on and on, and I did until – the day came.
Lou Gehrig, looking at his future
“I have to stay in baseball. On the one hand, I’m crazy about the game. On the other hand, I’m not quite 36 years old. In other areas, a man is starting to make his better at this age. My immediate plan is to try and regain my old form. Sitting on the bench, I have a lot of weird thoughts and weird sensations. But I don’t just sit there with the idea that it’s all over. and that Gehrig is ready for the boneyard. Not by far! People have been terribly nice to me. The newspaper articles that I slammed the string said wonderful things about me and made us cry, Eleanor and I , like children.
“But the idea that I’m a subject for a baseball obituary is dead wrong.
“If by any chance the legs don’t respond and the swing doesn’t come back, well, I get over my obstacles as I get there.”
“I have done my best every day of my life. Yet as I read the comments and my wife brings the newspaper articles to New York, I wonder if I deserve it all. I got into baseball with it. an inferiority complex and there are still days when I can’t fight it.
“I am going through a period of readjustment. It means working hard, listening, watching, keeping courage, and rebuilding legs and determination.”