EX-YANKEE STAR INFIELDER VICTIM OF INCURABLE DISEASE
Body to lie in state for two hours tonight
New York, June 3 (UP) –
The body of Lou Gehrig will lie in state for two hours tonight so that friends and admirers of the former New York Yankees first baseman may pay a final tribute to baseball’s “iron man.”
This concession was made today by Mrs. Gehrig, who at first had announced a preference that the ceremonies be private, and that all funeral arrangements be completed as quietly as possible.
The body will be in state from 8 to 10 p.m. in Christ Church, Riverdale.
Funeral service for the man who played 2,130 consecutive Major League Baeball games will be held at 10 a.m. EDT tomorrow. They will be private. The body will be cremated at Fresh Pond crematory in Middle Village, Long Island.
McCarthy, Dickey leave team
Joe McCarthy, the manager of the Yankees, will leave the team in Detroit tonight to fly here for the funeral. He will confer with Ed Barrow, the president of the Yankees, regarding a proper tribute to be paid by the ball club. William Harridge, the president of the American League, will fly here from Chicago to attend.
An unbroken stream of friends filed into the Gehrig home today to express condolences to the family.
Gehrig’s body lay on a couch in an alcove of a Manhattan funeral parlor.
Early today, Patrick McDonald, a New York City fireman attached to the Fireboat John J. Harvey, went to the funeral parlor.
Only a caretaker was no duty. He did not know that Gehrig’s body lay inside.
But McDonald – who had not known Gehrig personally – was permitted to view the body.
I was supposed to start my vacation today, but I had to have one last look at my favorite ball player.
Gehrig’s face, he said, held a quiet smile. A few gray hairs were visible at his temples.
Flags at half-mast
Flags of New York City buildings flew at half-mast today. Gehrig, as a member of the Municipal Parole Commission, had been a city employee since Oct. 9, 1939, when Mayor F. H. LaGuardia appointed him.
The honorary pallbearers will be:
- Mayor LaGuardia;
- Parole Commissioners John Maher and Mary Fraschi McCarthy;
- Yankees catcher Bill Dickey
- Four doctors from the Mayo Clinic – Dr. Paul O’Leary, Dr, Henry Woltman, Dr. Bayard Norton and Dr. Harold C. Harbein;
- Christy Walsh, syndicate writer who handled much of Gehrig’s writing;
- Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn;
- John Kieran, sports columnist of _ the New York Times_.
Dickey, who was Gehrig’s roommate when they played together with the Yankees, will fly to New York immediately after today’s game with the Detroit Tigers.
Gehrig, who would have been 38 on June 19, died at 10:10 last night of the rare incurable disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – a hardening of the spinal cord – which had ended his baseball career two years ago after he had played 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees.
Game’s most durable player
Gehrig was the most durable baseball player in the game’s history. From June 15, 1923 until April 30, 1939, Gehrig never missed a ball game with the Yankees.
Through those 15 years, Gehrig, by sheer grit and an extraordinary constitution, performed one of the miracles of baseball and earned the title of “The Iron Horse.” Of all the men in the baseball world, Gehrig was considered the one least likely to fold up overnight, the victim of an insidious disease which defied medical aid.
But after a week of examinations at Mayo Brothers’ clinic, Rochester, Minn., a shocked baseball world would be informed that Gehrig was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a type of illness known in layman’s terms as chronic poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis). Gehrig was given the sad news June 19, 1939, his 36th birthday.
Gehrig remained with the Yankees the rest of the 1939 season but retired from baseball after the Bronx Bombers won their fourth straight world title. In respect to his long and faithful service to the club, the Yankees retired his “No. 4” and gave the ball player permanent ownership of his locker in the Yankees dressing room.
On Oct. 9, 1939, Mayor F. H. LaGuardia appointed Gehrig to a 10-year term as a member of the three-man Parole Commission. Occasionally, Gehrig would drop in quietly at Yankee Stadium and sit on the Yankees bench in civilian clothes.
More than once during his fabulous career, Gehrig played on his nerve alone. He was felled by wild pitches. He had attacks of lumbago so bad that he was unable to dress himself in his uniform. He had his feet stepped on and cut. His legs and fingers were bruised and bashed. Once, he played for a period with a chipped bone in his little finger.
The nearest Gehrig ever came to breaking his consecutive game string before the final exit was at Detroit in 1934. He had the lumbago so bad he couldn’t rise out of bed.
Gehrig said in recalling the incident:
I had to fall out of bed to get up. I called the club trainer, Dr. Painter, and he had to dress me to get to the park. Then he had to undress me and help me get into my baseball togs, listed as shortstop. I singled and then retired to nurse my aching back.
Once in Washington, a doctor ordered Gehrig out of the game after he was hit in the head by a pitched ball thrown by Earl Whitehill, but the Yankees first baseman refused to obey. He played on and hit a homer that won the game.
Native New Yorker
A native New Yorker, Gehrig was born of German immigrants in a tenement in lower Harlem on June 19, 1903. When he was four, Gehrig’s family moved to Washington Heights where there was more room and fresh air for the youngster. It was on the lots in that neighborhood that he learned to play ball. He attended the high school of commerce, but didn’t make the baseball team until his second year. He first attracted the attention of baseball scouts when he hit a home run over the right-field wall at Wrigley Field, Chicago, in the annual inter-city high school game between the champions of New York and Chicago.
Gehrig attended Columbia and starred at football as well as baseball. While at Columbia, he tried out with the Giants at the Polo Grounds but John J. McGraw did not pay a lot of attention to him. McGraw sent Gehrig to Hartford where he played under the name of Lewis but he became homesick and jumped the club.
In 1923, the Yankees signed Gehrig, giving him $3,500. Eight other clubs, including the Giants, had been after Gehrig to sign a contract but the Yankees proposition made up his mind for him.
My mother had double pneumonia and my dad hadn’t worked in six months. I took the money so fast Ed Barrow didn’t have the chance to change his mind.
Gehrig went South with the Yankees in 1924 and had only $12 in his pocket. For a while, he had a part-time job as a soda-jerker in New Orleans, where the Yankees trained that year, in order to pay his incidental expenses. When Miller Huggins found out about Gehrig’s plight, he arranged for the club to give him extra expense money.
The Yankees sent Gehrig back to Hartford in 1924 because he was promised a bonus of $1,500 if he went back there. He had become popular with the fans in Hartford during his first appearance there. He hit .344 and came back to the Yankees the next spring.
Wally Pipp was playing first base for the Yankees and Gehrig had to sit on the bench. He grew restless and asked Manager Huggins to send him back to the minors.
Huggins counseled him:
Be patient, young man. I have plans for you. Besides, I couldn’t get you out of the league.
On June 1, Gehrig appeared in the Yankees lineup as a pinch-hitter, batting for Pee-Wee Wanninger. Only a few weeks before, Wanninger had replaced Deacon Scott at shortstop, and snapped the veteran infielder record of playing in 1,397 games. The experts predicted at that time that Scott’s record would probably never be broken.
The next day, Pipp came back into the Yankees clubhouse after the infield drill and asked the trainer for some aspirin tablets. He had been bothered by pains in the head as the result of a accident in his youth. Huggins overheard Pipp’s request.
The little manager asked:
Got a headache? Well, take the day off and let this big kid play.
Gehrig’s big chance
To Gehrig, Huggins said:
Now, here’s the chance you’ve been hollering for. Let’s see what you can do.
Gehrig batted No. 6 in the batting order, and made two singles and a double off George Mogridge and Allan Russell of Washington, helping the Yankees win, 8–5. He was a landmark at first base for the Yankees for the next 14 years.
Gehrig broke and equalled many records during his 17 years with the Yankees. His lifetime batting average for 2,130 games was .340. He played in seven World Series and batted .361. He hit 493 home runs during his Major League career, a figure exceeded only by Ruth and Foxx. On 23 occasions, he hit homers with the bases filled. In 1932, he hit four homers in one game. For 13 consecutive years, he batted in 100 or more runs. In 1934, he led the American League in batting with an average of .363. He collected nearly $400,000 in salary and World Series cuts during his Yankee career. His top salary was $36,000 in 1937.