This Week in Sports History: Remembering Lou Gehrig
A special edition of This Week in Sports History recounts Lou Gehrig's life and his election into the Baseball Hall of Fame (Dec. 11, 1939).
On Independence Day at Yankee Stadium in 1939, Lou Gehrig announced his retirement to the world in one of the most famous speeches of all time. This came almost a month after the public found out that he was fighting ALS, which was later dubbed Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Gehrig was honored by the Yankees, being the first player in all of baseball to have his jersey No. 4 retired and never to be worn again by any Yankee.
His election into the Hall of Fame did not come in the way that it normally does. At the Major League winter meetings in December 1939, the Baseball Writers Association got together to discuss the election of Gehrig into the Hall of Fame. They decided to have a special election only for Gehrig because of his quickly deteriorating health.
On Dec, 11, 1939, Lou Gehrig was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame after retiring only five months prior. He was the youngest player to date to be elected at 36 years old (Later surpassed by Sandy Koufax).
Lou Gehrig played most of his career batting behind No. 3 Babe Ruth, thus why he wore the No. 4. While playing behind one of the most captivating players at the time was no easy feat, Gehrig still had one of the best careers ever and was the definition of an iron man.
He batted .340 for his career, had an on-base percentage of .447 (fifth all-time), and drove in 1,995 RBIs (seventh all-time). Perhaps his most famous achievement though was playing in 2,130 consecutive games, a record which stood the test of time for 56 years until it was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1998.
Gehrig was a two-time American League MVP and selected seven times to the All-Star team, the first first baseman to do so. He helped the Yankees win seven pennants and six World Series championships. He is revered by many as the greatest first baseman of all time.
His famous consecutive games streak came to an end on May 2, 1939 when he removed himself from the lineup because it was getting too tough to play as his ALS progressed.
Lou Gehrig was not only seen as an iron man because of all those games he played, but also because he was one of the first public figures to bring attention to this rare and horrible disease called ALS.
Since his death, memorial funds have been made in his honor, and ALS is now more widely known and researched than ever before. It all started with the heroics of Lou Gehrig.
Charlie Murray is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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