The definitive account of the life and tragic death of baseball legend Lou Gehrig.
Lou Gehrig was a baseball legend—the Iron Horse, the stoic New York Yankee who was the greatest first baseman in history, a man whose consecutive-games streak was ended by a horrible disease that now bears his name. But as this definitive new biography makes clear, Gehrig’s life was more complicated—and, perhaps, even more heroic—than anyone really knew.
Drawing on new interviews and more than two hundred pages of previously unpublished letters to and from Gehrig, Luckiest Man gives us an intimate portrait of the man who became an American hero: his life as a shy and awkward youth growing up in New York City, his unlikely friendship with Babe Ruth (a friendship that allegedly ended over rumors that Ruth had had an affair with Gehrig’s wife), and his stellar career with the Yankees, where his consecutive-games streak stood for more than half a century. What was not previously known, however, is that symptoms of Gehrig’s affliction began appearing in 1938, earlier than is commonly acknowledged. Later, aware that he was dying, Gehrig exhibited a perseverance that was truly inspiring; he lived the last two years of his short life with the same grace and dignity with which he gave his now-famous “luckiest man” speech.
Meticulously researched and elegantly written, Jonathan Eig’s Luckiest Man shows us one of the greatest baseball players of all time as we’ve never seen him before.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Jonathan Eig is a former senior special writer for The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of several books, including two highly acclaimed bestsellers, Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season. Visit him at JonathanEig.com.
Read an Excerpt
Luckiest ManThe Life and Death of Lou Gehrig
By Jonathan Eig
Simon & SchusterCopyright © 2005 Jonathan Eig
All right reserved.
Lou Gehrig stepped onto the field at Yankee Stadium wearing a pinstriped uniform that no longer fit. His pants were bunched at the waist. His jersey billowed in the wind. The crowd hushed as they watched him walk, head bowed, feet shuffling, arms hanging weakly at his sides. They had seen him make the trip from the dugout to home plate thousands of times, but never like this, never with a look of dread creasing his face.
It was July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium, a hot and sticky afternoon. For the first time in his life, Gehrig was afraid to be on a ballfield. He was thirty-six years old and dying. His Yankee teammates and their opponents that day, the Washington Senators, were lined up on the infield grass, waiting for the ceremony to begin. His wife and parents watched from box seats along the third-base line. More than 61,000 people sat elbow to elbow in the stands.
Gehrig never looked up. When he finally reached home plate, he stopped and scratched at the dirt with his feet. The master of ceremonies introduced some of the special guests in attendance, including Gehrig's former teammate Babe Ruth and New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. Gehrig twisted his blue cap in his hands and tottered from side to side as he listened to a series of short speeches. Next came the presentation of gifts: a fishing rod, some silver plates, a trophy with an eagle on top. He accepted them without saying a word.
The crowd applauded, but only politely. Here was Gehrig, the greatest first baseman the game had ever seen. Yet for all his accomplishments, his movie-star looks, and his gentlemanly manner, fans, somehow, had never shown overwhelming enthusiasm for him. Sportswriters said he lacked color. He was no Babe Ruth, they complained. The Babe was the Bambino, their child, and people loved him unconditionally. Gehrig's nickname -- the Iron Horse -- was inspired by a train, and it was perfectly apropos. Most people don't appreciate a train's strength and reliability until they're standing on the platform one day and it doesn't show up.
When the presentations were over, the emcee, Sid Mercer, asked if the guest of honor had anything to say. Gehrig answered with a slight, almost imperceptible shake of the head, no. He was afraid he'd collapse if he tried to speak. Workers moved into position, ready to roll up the wires and pull down the microphones. Only then did it dawn on the men and women in the stands that he was going away. Cries of protest rang out. The shouting grew louder and spread like a fever through the stadium. Soon, all the fans were on their feet. Their voices came together in a chant that shook the grandstand: "We want Lou! We want Lou!"
Gehrig stood still. His shoulders hung limp and heavy. At last, Joe McCarthy, manager of the Yankees, walked over and whispered in his ear. Gehrig nodded, ran his fingers through his hair, and stepped hesitantly toward home plate. The chanting stopped. Silence blanketed the stadium again.
Ever so slowly, Gehrig leaned toward the microphones and drew a deep breath. He was about to deliver one of the saddest and strongest messages an American audience had ever heard.
Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Eig
Excerpted from Luckiest Man by Jonathan Eig Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Eig. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Survivor
Chapter 2: "Babe" Gehrig
Chapter 3: At Columbia
Chapter 4: The Behemoth of Bing
Chapter 5: Goodbye, Mr. Pipp
Chapter 6: Coming of Age
Chapter 7: Sinner and Saint
Chapter 8: Barnstorming Days
Chapter 9: A Charmed Life
Chapter 10: The Crash
Chapter 11: Iron Horse
Chapter 12: Courtship
Chapter 13: Out of the Shadows
Chapter 14: A Night at the Opera
Chapter 15: The Next Big Thing
Chapter 16: Lord of the Jungle
Chapter 17: Strange Times
Chapter 18: The Longest Summer
Chapter 19: Like a Match Burning Out
Chapter 20: Last Chance
Chapter 21: Pitchers Once Feared His Bat
Chapter 22: The Bitter with the Sweet
Chapter 23: Luckiest Man
Chapter 24: The Bureaucrat
Chapter 25: Our Boy Is Pretty Discouraged
Chapter 26: He Was Baseball
Appendix: Lou Gehrig's Career Statistics