Pastime Portraiture: Lou Gehrig

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Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Tuesday, May 2, 1939 (79 years ago today), and a resigned yet calm Lou Gehrig relaxes at the edge of the Yankees dugout after taking himself out of the lineup for the first time in almost 14 years, ending his major league record consecutive games played streak at 2,130 games.

As most are aware, the “Iron Horse” didn’t just take an arbitrary vacation, but felt he could no longer contribute to the team in his current physical state, from an as-yet-to-be-determined cause. I’ve seen many photos taken that day, but this stunning shot I had never seen until coming across it today (shout out to ), and was compelled to post. What is similar of all of the photos taken of Gehrig this day (although it’s reported he did shed a tear or two during a standing ovation given to him after the initial public address announcement) is his reserved, almost content demeanor, all the while certainly concerned a great deal about his sudden decline.

Sadly, Gehrig’s overall health did not improve, and after visiting the Mayo Clinic in June, received the diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which of course would later be known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Shortly afterward, Gehrig retired, never playing another major league game. On July 4, 1939, the Yankees held Lou Gehrig Day in his honor, with Gehrig’s Number 4 being retired and him delivering his now iconic “Luckiest Man” speech to his adoring fans.

Sadly, the progression of the degenerative illness was swift, and Gehrig succumbed to the disease a little over two years after this photo was taken, on June 2, 1931. But his selflessness and humility in the face of personal tragedy that has inspired generations of fans since will always be his legacy.

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