On this day in 1939- seventy-nine years ago Lou Gehrig the immortal Yankees first baseman who had played in 2130 consecutive games- took himself out of the line-up in a game in Detroit against the Tigers. Something was clearly wrong with Gehrig who was a powerhouse of a man and only 35 years old at the time. In eight games he had 4 hits in 28 at bats- a .143 average. No home runs and just one RBI. All four of his hits were singles. During spring training it had appeared something wasn’t right- he wasn’t hitting and was his fielding wasn’t the same either- he seemed weak and clumsy.
We know the rest of the story- Gehrig never played again. He went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis- ALS- now commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The great Gehrig would be dead within two years. His record of consecutive games played was a hollowed record- I recall as a young fan reading how that was one of the records – along with DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and others- that would never be touched. Then in the 1980’s along came Cal Ripken Jr of the Baltimore Orioles and in 1995 Ripken did the unthinkable- he broke Gehrig’s record- and set a new one at 2632. Surely 2632 is safe forever.