Like his former teammate, Babe Ruth, there are no words that can do Lou Gehrig justice. Known as the "Iron Horse" because of his strength and durability, Gehrig terrorized major league pitching throughout the 1920's and 1930's. Even though Ruth would often overshadow the soft-spoken slugger, Gehrig was the cleanup hitter for the league's most dominant offensive lineup. In fact, the lineup was often referred to as "Murderer's Row."
There are two things that come to mind when you hear Gehrig's name, the streak and the tragedy. First, let's talk about the streak. Gehrig would play for a record 2,130 consecutive games which, at the time, was far more than any other player had put together. The streak would come to an end on May 2, 1939 in Detroit. Gehrig knew that something was wrong with his health and he pulled himself out of the starting lineup. Cal Ripken has since broken Gehrig's record, but the record stood for nearly 60 years!
According to his teammates, the streak meant a great deal to Gehrig because it was his. Ruth had always seemed to overshadow Gehrig when they played together. If Gehrig hit a home run in a World Series game, Ruth would call his shot and steal the spotlight. If Gehrig hit .545 in the World Series, Ruth would hit .625. If Gehrig hit 47 home runs in 1927, Ruth hit 60. You get the picture.
While the two of them were a contrast in style, they had very comparable numbers throughout their careers. They were both incredible from an offensive standpoint. Batting average, home runs, and runs batted in were no problem for these two great sluggers.
While Gehrig would have been a legend with or without the streak, the streak added some spice to a very workmanlike career. The interesting thing is that many baseball historians think the streak actually prevents people from appreciating Gehrig's other accomplishments. The streak is an amazing testament to the will of Gehrig, but I have to say that I agree with that feeling.
You see, Gehrig was an absolutely astonishing baseball player without the streak, but that is all people want to talk about when Gehrig's name comes up. It's the same story with Cal Ripken; people just seem to concentrate on the streak. What I ask of baseball fans out there is to forget about the streak for a moment and just look at Gehrig's numbers. In only 2,164 games, Gehrig hit 493 home runs, hit 23 grand slams, scored 1888 runs, drove in 1995 runs, walked 1508 times, had a batting average of .340, an on-base average of .447 and slugged .632!
Those numbers, in my opinion, are more important when you are considering what type of player Gehrig was. For example, if Brett Butler played for 2,130 straight games, that wouldn't make him a great player. It would make Butler a durable, gutsy player who avoided injury. Gehrig was a great player. In my opinion, the streak simply adds to his legacy. The most impressive aspect to the streak is that he played at that high of a level for the duration, the duration itself is not what reveals Gehrig's great skill.
Tragically, Gehrig's career and life would come to a sudden end. After being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (hardening of the spinal cord), Gehrig would announce his retirement on July 4th, 1939. On that day, Gehrig would utter those famous words, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth." The terminal disease, which now bears his name, took his life on June 2, 1941.
One of the most interesting aspects to Gehrig's career and life is the way people adore the great Yankee. Consider this; the two movies that were made about the life of Babe Ruth were absolutely horrible. The first attempt, starring William Bendix, was so bad that Ruth walked out of the theater in disgust after only a few minutes. The second attempt, starring comedian John Goodman, was so pathetic that they actually had Goodman (as the "Babe") sit at a dinner table and say the words, "Pull my finger."
For Gehrig, it was a totally different story. Pride of the Yankees, Lou Gehrig's life story, is still considered one of the finest sports movies ever made. Gary Cooper, one of the finest actors of his day, portrayed Gehrig in a respectful, dignified manner. People cried at the end of Gehrig's movie while spectators laughed during Ruth's ridiculous portrayals. The effort by MGM in Pride of the Yankees just sums up the great respect that people have for the "Iron Horse." He is a true legend of the game.
|Name:||Henry Louis Gehrig|
|Date of Birth:||June 19, 1903|
|Teams:||New York Yankees|
|Elected to the Hall of Fame:||1982|
Lou Gehrig sportscards and memorabilia remain some of the hottest items in the hobby. Not only is Gehrig a superstar, but his items all seem to be rare. When it comes to his sportscards, there are only a few cards from his playing days, but each one of these gems will cost you as the demand continues to soar. Here's a peak at Gehrig's more popular cards.
- 1932 U.S. Caramel #26
- 1933 Delongs #7
- 1933 Goudey #'s 92 and 160
- 1934 Goudey #'s 37 and 61
It's a short list of cards, but all of them are popular and tough examples. Some sets, from the 1930's, suffer from not including Gehrig such as the 1934 Diamond Star, 1933 Tattoo Orbit and 1934-36 Batter-Up sets. If Gehrig were a part of those sets, it would have certainly helped increase the popularity. Instead, we are left with only a brief list but each card would be the centerpiece of a collection. Let's begin.
The 1932 U.S. Caramel Gehrig is really the first mainstream card of the "Iron Horse." The card is very tough and if it were not due to a "find," I am not sure if any high-grade examples would exist. The 1932 U.S. Caramel cards are usually found off-center, toned and with terrible eye-appeal. The Gehrig example, specifically, is found off-center more often than other key cards in the set. The set, which contains athletes from various sports, is one of the hottest sets on the market right now due to the scarcity of quality examples. As the first mainstream card of the great slugger, this card should enjoy great demand for years to come.
Gehrig's next card, the 1933 Delongs example, might be one of the most undervalued cards in the market today. The Delongs, like the U.S. Caramels, are very tough to locate in high-grade. The narrow borders cause many of the cards to be off-center and the borders and edges are almost always found with toning or discoloration. While the Delongs may be tough, they are equally as beautiful. The images of each player are placed behind a colorful background and the cards are unique in size (2x3 inches). With all the attention on rarity, this Gehrig has a bright future. When was the last time you saw one in high-grade?
Up next are the two 1933 Goudey Gehrig offerings. Both cards feature Gehrig in the same pose, poised to drive the pitch out of the yard. While they both look the same on the front, the #160 Gehrig is considered a bit tougher to find and is priced slightly higher than the #92 Gehrig. As with most Goudeys, these two Gehrigs are susceptible to toning and "bleed-through" on the reverse.
The one thing that is confusing about these two Gehrig cards is the fact that neither card seems to get the attention they deserve. When it comes to Goudey Gehrig cards, the 1934 examples are king. While the 1933 cards are not as visually appealing, they are one year older and part of a more popular set overall. There seems to be growth potential with these two.
Now, last but not least, we have the two 1934 Goudey Gehrig cards. These are, without question, the two most popular Gehrig cards in the marketplace. Both exhibit tremendous color and beautiful artwork on the face. The #37 example is considered the more popular of the two and it features the smiling face of Gehrig against a yellow background.
The #61 example is overshadowed by the #37 card, but it is arguably just as attractive. It features Gehrig from the waist up and holding his weapon with intensity. Each card captures the legend of Gehrig; he was kind yet a fierce competitor. In addition, the Gehrig cards are the keys to the set because, this time, the "Babe" was nowhere to be found. The #1 Jimmie Foxx card is also very important, but the 1934 Goudey set is Gehrig's stage.
When it comes to autograph popularity and difficulty, Gehrig is at the top of the list. Due to his private ways and quiet demeanor, Gehrig was not the prolific signer that Ruth was. He wasn't even close. How does that affect his autograph demand? Authentic Gehrig signatures are just extremely tough to locate. The demand is there and when that is present, beware of forgeries.
There are very few high-grade, single-signed baseballs in existence. When they do come up for sale, don't be surprised if they sell between the $40,000-$65,000 range. Gehrig contracts have sold anywhere between $25,000-$35,000 and his personal checks, which are extremely scarce in comparison to Ruth checks, sell between $10,000-$17,000 consistently. If you can find a high-quality Gehrig autograph, you have yourself a keeper.
Gehrig game-used equipment is even more desirable. There are fewer than 20 known game-used Gehrig bats in existence. They usually sell between $35,000-$75,000 depending on the quality. A few Gehrig game-used jerseys have sold within the last year and all three sold for more than $250,000 with two of the three selling over $300,000. The highest price ever realized for a Gehrig jersey was paid approximately one year ago when Mastro Fine Sports sold the uniform Gehrig wore during his farewell speech for approximately $400,000.
There you have it. Lou Gehrig will forever be regarded as one of the true legends of the game and the demand for Gehrig sportscards and memorabilia continues to rise. His class and dignity shown in the shadow of Ruth and in the face of death made Gehrig more than just a great baseball player; he was an icon in American history.