Lou Gehrig The Sound of Suffering
LiveAuctionTalk.com: by Rosemary McKittrick
Photo courtesy of Hunt Auctions.
Lou Gehrig took the subway to Yankee stadium in June of 1923 carrying his baseball glove and spikes in a newspaper. No special attire for the shy, 20-year-old rookie.
Yankee trainer Doc Woods greeted the newbie and escorted him out to the field to meet baseball superstar, Babe Ruth. An awkward, dumbstruck Gehrig stood in front of the legend shaking. He had followed Ruth’s career for years and here he was standing in the presence of the biggest sports hero of the century. Gehrig remembered watching Ruth bat from the bleachers. He had never seen anyone hit a ball so hard.
“And when I saw the way he swung, watched the perfect rhythm and timing,” he said, “I made up my mind that there was one man to pattern after. I learned a lot from Babe Ruth in that one day.”
Yankee manager, Miller Huggins, readied Gehrig for batting practice as Ruth and some of the other power hitters watched. Gehrig picked up a heavy bat not realizing it was Ruth’s bat. Ruth said nothing. He wanted to see if the kid could hit.
Hands shaking, Gehrig missed a few pitches and hit a few grounders. Nothing special. Then he connected. He slammed ball after ball into the bleachers off right field in what was called “Ruthville” because Ruth smacked so many homers there. Gehrig found the sweet spot.
The players on hand watched and witnessed the birth of the next Babe Ruth. One day Gehrig would be as fearsome as The Bambino.
Unfortunately Gehrig’s fielding wasn’t as good as his hitting so he was shipped off until September to a lesser team until his fielding improved.
Ruth had never had any competition in the home run race until Gehrig. Not only would he have competition in the upcoming years but it came from the man directly behind him in the lineup. The two were never separated by more than two home runs.
From a spectators point of view it was pure bliss. On any given day, there was a 50 percent chance of seeing one or both men smack it out of the park. Gehrig was all about stealing Ruth’s thunder.
Even when he did it was often downplayed because the shy, interview-phobic Gehrig wasn’t skilled at working the press like the bombastic Ruth.
“Day in, day out, he typified back then what today’s Yankees think of as Yankees, a guy going out and playing hard every single day, making no excuses. He just knew how to play the game,” said Tino Martinez, former Yankee first baseman.
In 1927 Gehrig’s salary from the Yankees was $7,500. Ruth’s was a league-high of $70,000.
Some say it was hard for Gehrig to live in the shadow of Ruth. But he never showed it.
"I'm not a headline guy. I know that as long as I was following (Babe) Ruth to the plate I could have stood on my head and no one would have known the difference."
On July 12, a selection of Ruth and Gehrig memorabilia went on the block at Hunt Auctions.
Here are some current values.
Ruth and Gehrig
Vintage Photo; Ruth, Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx; in uniform; late-1920s; sepia toned; 8 inches by 10 inches; $1,380.
Yankee Team Photo; Tour of Japan; in uniform; 1931; sepia toned; 4 ½ inches by six inches; $1,610.
Yankee Team Autographed Photo; Tour of Japan; in uniform; 1934; sepia toned; 9 1/2 inches framed by 12 ½ inches; $5,175.
Autograph Team Baseball; Tour of Japan; Middle School League Ball; period fountain pen; 1934; $5,750.
Ruth, Gehrig and Edgar Branom Autograph Baseballs; Wilson official league; period fountain pen; 1927; $14,950.