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Lou Gehrig

Yankee Slugger's Streak Comes To An End

May 3, 1939 — Three little words— "I'm ready, Joe"— will send Lou Gehrig back into the lineup of the New York Yankees any time the iron man decides in his own heart that he is ready to speak them.

His job at first base is waiting for him, but many a base hit probably will streak through the sunshine before Gehrig tells Manager Joe McCarthy that he is ready. For Gehrig is not ready and nobody knows it better than himself.

He knew it three days ago but it was not until yesterday in a hotel high above the center of Detroit that Gehrig announced he had decided to end his streak of 2,130 consecutive games— a streak that is a record today and one likely to stand for a century.

Gehrig and McCarthy were alone in the hotel room "The team isn't going so good and I'm not going so good," Gehrig said. "I think it would be better for me to get out of there for a while." "Is that the way you really feel about it Lou?" McCarthy asked. "Yes, that's what I've decided."

But the final act of this drama that began on a June day in 1923 was played an hour or so later on the grass at Briggs stadium. McCarthy made it clear before the game with the Detroit Tigers started that Gehrig had benched himself and added "Lou will be back in the lineup when he himself decides he's ready to play again. His place is there for him when he wants it."

But those words were spoken to a small knot of people in front of the Yankees' bench and none of the 11,379 persons in the stands realized what they were about to see. Fielding practice was over and the diamond was clear when out of the Yankee dugout came a familiar thick-legged figure. It was Captain Lou Gehrig of the Yankees carrying the New York line-up to the umpire. Lou knew that 'Gehrig 1B' was not written on that lineup for the first time in almost 14 years, but nothing on his face gave any indication that it mattered.

The umpire and Manager Del Baker, carrying the Detroit lineup were slow to get to the plate and for a minute or more Gehrig stood there alone. He looked toward first base and then toward center field. Just then the public address system blared out the news that Gehrig would not play.

Lou has heard the roar of the crowd in seven world series when parks were packed to the rafters but it is doubtful if he ever heard a cheer like the one that rang through the chill air at Briggs stadium yesterday afternoon. Everyone of the 11,379 persons in the park seemed to be splitting his throat in tribute to the man who had hammered their home team into submission on so many afternoons during the last 14 years.

Gehrig handed his line up to the umpire and walked back into the shadows of the dugout. And when the Yankees raced out on the field in the second half of the first inning Babe Dahlgren, a utility infielder, was on first base.

Fate piled it on Gehrig as he sat in the dugout. With him in the line up the Yankees had been in a slump. With him out of the line up they came to life and hammered Detroit pitchers for 22 runs. Dahlgren subbing for Gehrig got a home run and a double. Charlie Keller who batted in Gehrig's fifth position got a triple and a homer which drove in six runs.

Sitting in the stands yesterday was a business man from Grand Rapids by the name of Wally Pipp. His name doesn't mean much to this generation of fans but he was the man who lost his job when Gehrig became first baseman of the Yankees. Pipp had dropped over to Detroit to see the game, never dreaming that he would arrive on the afternoon when the man who beat him out of his job would be benched. Gehrig took a long time to dress after the game. Over in one corner of the locker room a trainer was rubbing liniment into Red Ruffing's right arm. Finally Gehrig said, "It seemed funny not to be out there on the field. I don't know when I'll go back in. I like warm weather and it's pretty cold now."

Then he finished dressing and walked fast, almost ran, to a taxi cab outside the park.

RetroGalaxy Editor's Note: Lou Gehrig never played another game. On June 19, 1939 he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

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