White House Dream Team: Lou Gehrig

Drawing of Lou Gehrig. White House Drawing by Rania Hassan. *Click to make your own baseball cards* Lou Gehrig

Lou "Iron Horse" Gehrig was quite possibly the best first baseman to ever play at Yankee Stadium. His stunning athletic ability made him an American hero, while his untimely death made him a legend. In his 14-year career, Lou broke many records. This left-handed player had a career total of 23 grand slams and a lifetime batting average of .361. He was voted Most Valuable Player in 1927 and 1936 and won the 1934 Triple Crown.

Lou, short for Henris Louis Gehrig, was born in New York City, New York, in a section of Manhattan called Yorkville. His parents, Heinrich and Christina Fack were German immigrants.

In elementary school, Lou found the time between working odd jobs to play sports. He would play whatever sport was in season: soccer, football, basketball, gymnastics or baseball. He also played marbles, billiards and checkers. Lou's attendance at school was remarkable. He never missed a day just like he would never miss a baseball game later in life.

Following graduation from elementary school, Lou attended Manhattan's High School of Commerce. While traveling by railroad with his high school team to compete in Chicago, Lou met President William Howard Taft, who told the team that he was "looking forward to seeing [them] play." At this game, Lou hit a game-winning grand slam, beating the opposing team 12-6.

During Lou's last year at Commerce High School, his mother began working for Columbia University. This sparked the family's interest in the university. Lou's great talent in sports, along with his academic achievements, made him an ideal student for Columbia. He attended Columbia University on a football scholarship and played baseball his junior year.

Columbia's baseball team played Rutgers University on April 26, 1923. Paul Krichell, a Yankees scout, attended the game. This scout offered Lou a $1,500 dollars for signing with the team and $2,000 for the remaining four weeks of the season. Lou first began his career in 1923 playing for the Yankees at Fenway Park, where he hit his first of what would become 493 homeruns throughout his baseball career.

Lou established a new Major League record with 175 RBIs in 1927, earning him title of the American League Most Valuable Player of the year. He received this award again in 1936, after a season where he batted .354.

Lou's health, however had been deteriorating because of a spinal disease called "amyotrophic lateral sclerosis." At the time of his retirement on May 2, 1939, Lou held a record of 2,130 consecutive games since June 1, 1925. He had played with broken bones, concussions and bouts of his disease. He also played the day of his wedding to Eleanor Twitchell, on September 29, 1933.

Lou continued on the team as captain. He was honored on July 4, 1939 by 62,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, where he declared "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth." He became the first baseball player ever honored by having his uniform number retired, and he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame within the year. At Yankee Stadium in 1996, a monument was erected in Lou's honor.

Following his departure from baseball, Lou began to work on youth projects with New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Lou died on June 2, 1941, and today the disease that took his life is known today as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Brain Challenge:

  1. Which President did Lou meet?
  2. Name a sport Lou enjoyed playing as a child.
  3. What professional baseball team did Lou play for?
  4. Name one of Lou's awards.
  5. How many consecutive games of baseball did Lou play?
Share your answers with a parent, teacher or other adult.

Want to learn more?
Visit your school or public library to learn more about these fascinating Americans.

June 19, 1903

June 2, 1941

To play professional baseball

Manhattan's High School of Commerce
Columbia University

Played 2,130 consecutive baseball games

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