Yankees Hall of Famer: Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig, or the Iron Horse and Yankee Captain, played with the Yankees from 1923 until 1939. During that time he played in 2,130 consecutive games, a record that stood for 56 years. He finished his career with 493 home runs, 1,995 RBIs, a .340 batting average, a .447 OBP, and a 1.080 OPS. He also holds the record for most career grand slams at 23.

Gehrig was named the league MVP in 1927 and 1936 and also won the triple crown in 1934, leading the league in home runs, RBI’s, and batting average. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939 and was picked as the first baseman for the MLB All-Century Team in 1999.

Gehrig was born and raised in New York City and even went to college at Columbia University, although he did not play baseball in his freshman year because of eligibility rules. At Columbia he was a standout pitcher, once striking out 17 batters in a single game, but the Yankees were more interested in him as a hitter. He finished school in 1923 and made his major league debut in that very season.

Gehrig would not become a standout regular until 1926 when he played in 155 games, led the league with 20 triples, smacked 16 home runs, and hit .313. In 1927 he was truly amazing hitting .373 with a 1.240 OPS while leading the league with 447 total bases (52 doubles, 18 triples, and 47 home runs). His 1927 numbers still rival the stats for any player’s single season accomplishments to this day, Babe Ruth included.

That ’27 team was nicknamed Murderer’s Row in a large part because of Gehrig. In fact, Ruth hit 60 home runs that year and Gehrig still took home the AL MVP award. That offense powered the Yankees to a 110-44 overall record that year and a sweep in the World Series.

Gehrig was a hero in the 1927 World Series, but he really stood out in the 1928 World Series when he hit .545, had a .706 OBP, a 1.727 slugging percentage along with four home runs and nine RBI’s. All in four games.

Gehrig lead the league in home runs in 1931, 1934, and 1936, but only outslugged teammate Ruth in the ’34 season, his last with the Yankees (they tied in ’31 and Ruth was retired in ’36).

Midway through the 1938 season Gehrig first reported feeling tired. It was the start of his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, later named Lou Gehrig’s disease, that would eventually end his career and take his life.

At the start of the 1939 season there was something clearly wrong with Gehrig, but it wasn’t until May 2 that he came out of the lineup for the first time in 2,130 games. Gehrig had to bench himself because Yankees manager Joe McCarthy refused to take him out of the lineup. The Yankees were on the road that day and the Detroit Tigers fans acknowledged that Gehrig’s games played streak had ended by giving him a standing ovation. He never played again.

Gehrig gave his famous “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech on July 4th that year. It was on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium and took place in between a double header against the Washington Senators. On that day, Ruth and Gehrig put behind them a personal conflict that kept the pair from speaking with each other for years. There is a famous picture of Ruth embracing Gehrig. Gehrig didn’t hug Ruth back because his ALS had been so bad that he couldn’t lift his arms.

Gehrig died June 2, 1941 at the age of 37. Today he is remembered by the Yankees with a plaque in Monument Park and his no. 4 is retired. The Yankees also didn’t name another captain until Thurman Munson was given the honor in 1976, in memory of Gehrig.

Here are Gehrig’s stats:

Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1923 NYY 13 26 6 11 4 1 1 9 2 5 .423 .464 .769 1.234
1924 NYY 10 12 2 6 1 0 0 5 1 3 .500 .538 .583 1.122
1925 NYY 126 437 73 129 23 10 20 68 46 49 .295 .365 .531 .896
1926 NYY 155 572 135 179 47 20 16 112 105 73 .313 .420 .549 .969
1927 NYY 155 584 149 218 52 18 47 175 109 84 .373 .474 .765 1.240
1928 NYY 154 562 139 210 47 13 27 142 95 69 .374 .467 .648 1.115
1929 NYY 154 553 127 166 32 10 35 126 122 68 .300 .431 .584 1.015
1930 NYY 154 581 143 220 42 17 41 174 101 63 .379 .473 .721 1.194
1931 NYY 155 619 163 211 31 15 46 184 117 56 .341 .446 .662 1.108
1932 NYY 156 596 138 208 42 9 34 151 108 38 .349 .451 .621 1.072
1933 NYY 152 593 138 198 41 12 32 139 92 42 .334 .424 .605 1.030
1934 NYY 154 579 128 210 40 6 49 165 109 31 .363 .465 .706 1.172
1935 NYY 149 535 125 176 26 10 30 119 132 38 .329 .466 .583 1.049
1936 NYY 155 579 167 205 37 7 49 152 130 46 .354 .478 .696 1.174
1937 NYY 157 569 138 200 37 9 37 159 127 49 .351 .473 .643 1.116
1938 NYY 157 576 115 170 32 6 29 114 107 75 .295 .410 .523 .932
1939 NYY 8 28 2 4 0 0 0 1 5 1 .143 .273 .143 .416
17 Seasons 2164 8001 1888 2721 534 163 493 1995 1508 790 .340 .447 .632 1.080
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/6/2010.
This entry was posted in Player Feature and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Yankees Hall of Famer: Lou Gehrig

  1. Mike S. says:

    One thing to point out. The MVP voting prior to 1931 had a different system than we have today. Even though most people that were around in 1927 think Gehrig would have beaten Ruth out for the MVP anyway, the truth is that Ruth wasn't eligible for the award.

    Let me backtrack. The first MVP awards were from 1911-1914. They were called the Chalmers award after the Chalmers Car Company. The winner got, you guessed it, a car. You were only eligible to win once in your career.

    In the 1920's, the MVP evolved into the League Award. In the AL, it ran from 1922-1928. Winners of the Chalmers were eligible, but once again, if you won the League Award, you were ineligible to win another one.

    Hence, since Ruth won the League Award (MVP) in 1923, he was not even on the ballot in 1927.

    The NL had the League award from 1924-1929. They either didn't have a "one and done" rule or modified the rule later, which is how Hornsby won in 1925 and 1929.

    So for many years, there either a) wasn't an MVP award for Ruth to win (example, 1919-1921) or b) Ruth wasn't eligible because of his winning the award in 1923.

    When the system as we know it came to be in 1931, Ruth was still good, but 36 years old and surpassed by Gehrig, Grove and Foxx.

    …and that is why Ruth only has the one MVP. Most people don't know about the "one and done" rule they had back then so I thought I'd share the info.