TSN Archives: Lou Gehrig’s Death Shocks All in Game (June 5, 1941)

In the July 13, 1939 issue of The Sporting News, famed New York sportswriter Dan Daniel, who described himself as an early supporter of Lou Gehrig Day, described the July Fourth ceremony at Yankee Stadium as maudlin. “When I saw Lou standing out there in front of 61,000 people with tears streaming down his face,” Daniel wrote, “I regretted that I ever made such a suggestion.” Of course, looking back, it was the day that Lou Gehrig made the move ALS, described himself as “the luckiest man alive,” a speech that defined the New York icon. Less than two years later, after the 37-year-old Gehrig succumbed to the disease that would bear his name for decades on June 2, 1941, The Sporting News said in an unsigned editorial, “Gehrig’s baseball exploits have been eclipsed by the courage with which he passed his last fight.”

The Sporting News, June 5, 1941

Gehrig’s Death Shocks All-in-Game

NO BASEBALL death in many years has shocked the nation quite like the death of Lou Gehrig, one of baseball’s wonder men, in his native New York on the evening of June 2nd. It was not so much the death of the Great Iron Horse that stunned so many of his fellow citizens, for death may have brought an end to physical suffering, but there was a heartfelt regret that such a distinguished character was struck down so early. Even in a condition of physical disability, he would have had much to offer to the young of the nation for whom he prayed he would live a few more years to serve.

The fickle goddess of fate has dealt some strange hands in baseball, but none are stranger than the one dealt to Lou Gehrig. With the physique of a Greek athlete, the strength of a lion and an indomitable will, Gehrig broke record after record. His performance of 2,130 consecutive games was only the most famous of these many records. Not infrequently, the players themselves were amazed at the amazing endurance that made it possible for Gehrig to sit at his workbench for fifteen consecutive seasons. Babe Ruth, not a bad record breaker herself, once remarked about his fellow Swat son, “Why, the guy ain’t human.” But the Iron Horse was human after all. Knocked down at the height of his career, his undaunted spirit has now spilled over into the game’s Valhalla, as many of the coy players who have played with and against him still have many years of Earth life ahead of them.

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Yes, Lou Gehrig was a very human person. He died of an insidious disease; a disease that science still doesn’t understand. And even in this illness he tried to help those around him. He was in constant correspondence with other victims of the same illness in hopes of finding a cure, and when he sued a major newspaper for a publication about his illness, he announced that he would use the money if he won his case would set up a fund to try to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (polio).

After a heavy bombing raid on London, famous magazine writer and former baseball writer Quentin Reynolds was asked, “Have you ever seen such a display of courage in America?”

“Yes,” Reynolds replied, “on the part of a professional ball player, Lou Gehrig. A healthy, strong man and one of the nation’s great sports figures one season, he was a helpless cripple the next. But he took it with his chin up and without a whimper.”

As a ball player, Gehrig scolded referees, opponents and teammates a lot. He was such a hectic man himself that he had little patience for an employee who wasn’t constantly on the go and wasn’t as hectic as he was. But in his big fight of the last two years he didn’t scold. It was part of the great game of life, he once remarked. “It gave me some pretty high moments, so maybe I’ll get some bumps now,” he said then.

Gehrig’s exploits as a ballplayer were written into the game’s archives and are kept alive in the great baseball shrine in the game’s birthplace, Cooperstown, NY. Baseball man none other than John McGraw, a confirmed National Leaguer, called the rival club’s first baseman in New York the first No. 1 baseman of all time. Lou’s last manager, Joe McCarthy, went even further and called Gehrig the greatest player of all time. But even Gehrig’s baseball exploits were eclipsed by the courage with which he fought his last fight. On the surface it was a losing battle, but in the greater book that records the character of the soul it comes down as a glorious victory.

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Our heartfelt condolences to Lou’s beloved parents, “Mom” and “Pop” Gehrig, and his devoted wife, Eleanor Gehrig. Lou was the only one of four Gehrig children to grow up, and then these serious, hard-working people saw their award-winning son crushed.

When Eleanor Twitchell married Lou in 1933 at the height of her career, who could have predicted the tragedy that was only a few years away? It is difficult to express words of sympathy and condolences on such an occasion. All we can say to the older Gehrigs is, “Lucky you gave birth to such a son.” To the younger Mrs. Gehrig: “Lucky that you had such a man.”

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