Lou GEHRIG (1903-1941)
See also : Sport uniform Baseball bat Sport document Sport images < 1950 Medicine
2020 SOLD for $ 1.03M by Heritage
This bat was made by Hillerich and Bradsby for Gehrig around 1922, preceding their first contract in October 1923 with the 20 year old player. It was extensively used by Gehrig in that transition period when he was a pitcher for Columbia University and then went professional in MLB from June 1923 with the New York Yankees and occasionally with the Hartford Senators. It is graded a perfect GU 10 by PSA/DNA.
This bat was used in 1925 as the master for the 40 oz Gehrig bat which will from then have a burnt facsimile signature on the barrel in place of the block letter name inscribed on the pre-contract specimen. A side written date from the factory on the barrel records this operation. This use as a master reveals that it was in period Gehrig's preferred bat.
1924 Rookie Contract with the Yankees
2017 SOLD for $ 480K by Heritage
From that first phase his records are sensational. As early as 1920 he attracted attention by scoring in front of 10,000 spectators one of the most prestigious and rarest points of baseball, a grand slam whose he will be the best specialist throughout his long career.
Lou was born in New York City. His skills very logically appealed the leaders of the New York Yankees with whom he plays his first match in Major League on June 15, 1923.
At that time the star player of the Yankees is Babe Ruth, strong enough to grab a weekly salary of $ 1,000 in 1922. An original copy of that contract was sold for $ 550K by Goldin on April 30, 2016.
The president of the club, Jacob Ruppert, who accepted the exorbitant conditions of Ruth, is definitely a competent manager. On August 30, 1924 Gehrig signs his first contract with the Yankees for a monthly salary of $ 800, well below Ruth's salary but nevertheless quite attractive for a rookie. An original copy of this document signed by Gehrig, Ruppert and two other officials was sold for $ 480K by Heritage on August 19, 2017, lot 80093.
Lou proved himself. From 1 June 1925 he played 2,130 consecutive games with the Yankees. This stunning record will be surpassed in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr of the Baltimore Orioles and will never be approached by any other player in Major League.
1925 ESCO Card
2021 SOLD for $ 800K by Goldin
The images were issued in black and white by halftone prints in postcard size, 3-3/8" x 5-3/8" (8.5 x 13.5 cm). They were often reused from year to year. The publisher is not identified and the back is blank, which is consistent with the fact that the sale to the public was not planned. The views are not numbered.
In 1925, Exhibit publish the portraits in action of 128 baseball players, most often in a vertical format. The player's name and position, along with his city and league, are grouped in a box at the bottom left.
This series includes a rookie card which is outstanding in the history of baseball images : Henry L. Gehrig, Infield, New York, A.L. (American League). Lou Gehrig, 22, holds up his bat for hitting. He already has that look of a quiet colossus which will please the public so much.
A print graded EX-MT 6 (MK) by PSA was sold for $ 102K by Heritage on February 26, 2017, lot 80029, and for $ 800K by Goldin on January 30, 2021, lot 16. The mark (MK) observed by PSA is on the back, almost completely erased, and does not affect the image.
This view is indeed not the earliest image of Gehrig's career. A print of a press photo taken in 1923 featuring him with the Yankees uniform was sold for $ 22.7K by Heritage on August 14, 2015, lot 81004.
1927 Home Jersey
2010 SOLD for $ 720K by Heritage
On November 5, 2010, Heritage sold for $ 720K a jersey worn by Gehrig during these heroic games, lot 81216. Size 46, signed Spalding, this garment bears the name of the player inside the collar. The fans of baseball memories need their magnifying glass, like philatelists and numismatists. They inspect the old photos for the pattern of the stripes on the jerseys. No doubt for this one : 1927.
1927 Wide World Photos
2021 SOLD for $ 390K by Heritage
Babe Ruth is the Sultan of Swat, meaning that his hittings are worthy of a monarch. Yet he finds in his own team a young challenger as talented as him : Lou Gehrig. The Yankees are invincible, but this friendly internal rivalry makes the 1927 season arguably the most exciting in baseball history.
Fans manage to count the home runs. At the end of August, Gehrig leads with 45 homers. In September, Ruth is unleashed. In the middle of the month, it becomes clear that his performance will be unbeatable. He makes on September 30 his 60th homer of the season, a remarkable record which will last until 1961, thirteen years after his death.
The journalists are there. On September 15, the Wide World Photos, photo news service of the New York Times at that time, takes a picture of Gehrig congratulating Ruth. Both players are in baseball uniforms. Ruth is holding a bat.
On February 27, 2021, Heritage sold for $ 390K as lot 80079 a signed 20 x 25 cm print of this photo. The two signatures, inscribed by the players without superfluous comment on the image of their pants, are graded Auto 9 by PSA/DNA.
A typed paper was pasted on the back to provide the information necessary for publication. It explains why this moment is historic : "The King Still Reigns. New York : Lou 'Buster' Gehrig, pretender to the home-run crown, congratulates 'Babe' Ruth, who retained his title of 'Sultan of Swat' by outdistancing his younger rival in making round-trip hits ".
Buster was then a nickname attributed to Gehrig, after the error of a hard of hearing columnist who had believed that Ruth was so calling his young teammate. Ruth liked to use that name again to make fun of the incompetence of the journalists.
There's always a chance for controversy when declaring anything the "finest known" but we'll go out on that limb with this #BabeRuth & #LouGehrig signed photo. The photo is from the glorious 1927 season and both inscription-free autographs are PSA Mint 9s!https://t.co/N03mgKKjmt pic.twitter.com/2sYR7ZE1FS— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) January 23, 2021
1931 Home Jersey
2020 SOLD for $ 1.44M by Christie's and Hunt
The New York Yankees players generally had two home jerseys and two road jerseys available for the entire season. The player's name was sewn in round letters on the inside of the collar next to the Spalding tag. The tight pattern of vertical blue stripes on the front of home jerseys makes photo-matching easier than on road jerseys.
A home jersey used by Lou Gehrig in 1927, the year of the Murderers Row, was sold for $ 720K including premium by Heritage on November 5, 2010.
On December 16, 2020, Christie's and Hunt sold as lot 46 for $ 1.44M a home jersey from Gehrig, photo-matched in April and September 1931.
This thick woolen flannel garment had been roughly handled, starting with the shortening of the sleeves in the summer of 1931. The thinning of the flannel at the shoulders was reworked. On the back, a vintage number 4 has been sewn back in place of the original 4 which had early disappeared. Reversely the absence of inscription on the front is in conformity with the original state. It was graded A6 by MEARS.
A few years later, more attention was paid to the conservation of such relics. Given to a friend by a Yankees manager, a 1937 Gehrig road jersey remains in excellent condition, rated A9 by MEARS. It was sold by Heritage in 2019.
1937 Road Jersey
2019 SOLD for $ 2.6M by Heritage
The retirement of Babe Ruth in 1935 increases the attention of the supporters to Lou Gehrig. In 1936 Lou even participates in a casting to replace Johnny Weissmuller in the role of Tarzan the Ape Man. On the field, 1936 and 1937 are great years with two consecutive victories of the Yankees in the World Series.
Around that time, players usually wore two home jerseys and two road jerseys per year. After the season it was customary to give the uniforms to a training club for young players where it was modified as needed.
A jersey game used by Lou Gehrig in 1937 and afterwards modified in a farm club was sold for $ 870K including premium by Heritage on August 19, 2017. Its lower grade A6.5 by MEARS was outweighed by a historical appeal : it was matched with the photo used as a model for the Gehrig Monument at the Yankee Stadium Monument Park.
In June 2018 SCP reported that they had achieved the private sale of a road jersey of Lou Gehrig, photo-matched with two games from August 1937. Escaping the nursery clubs, it had been presented to a friend by George Weiss, general manager of the Yankees, and had been kept by the family. The 2018 price has not been disclosed.
The matching had been done by Resolution Photomatching, considering that the alignment to the seam and buttons of the stitched Y beginning the word YORK is different for each jersey.
The same jersey was sold for $ 2.6M by Heritage on August 17, 2019, lot 56059. A document demonstrating the photo-matching in the press release prepared in 2018 by Resolution Photomatching is included in the catalog of Heritage and the original provenance is also with George Weiss. It is graded A9 by MEARS and Excellent by SGC, meaning that the only changes from the Spalding model are consistent with the known habits of the player.
2017 SOLD for $ 870K by Heritage
With Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig the New York Yankees were unbeatable. The personalities of the two teammates were nevertheless remarkably opposed. Ruth was a rebel and Gehrig a stoic.
On May 2, 1939, after one year and a half of worsening of his physical condition, Lou renounces to play. From June 1, 1925 to April 30, 1939 he had realized with the Yankees the sensational performance of 2,130 consecutive games in major league. Nicknamed The Iron Horse he was an example for the youth in the sequel to Christy Mathewson. His number 4 was withdrawn on 4 July 1939 by the Yankees.
On July 4, 1941, five weeks after his death, Gehrig was the first player and the second person after the manager Miller Huggins to be honored with a monument at Yankee Stadium Monument Park.
The image in his plaque and in the 1941 ceremony ticket is copied from a photo made in 1937. The attitude, both smiling and melancholic, is typical of the great player, as if he was knowing in advance his incurable fate.
The flannel jersey worn by Lou Gehrig on this photo and visible on the plaque and on the ticket was retrieved. It had been worn out and modified through about 40 games with the champion in 1937 followed by an unregistered but probably intensive use in a farm club. A NY mark conforming to its 1937 style was sewn close to the location of the original mark that had been removed.
The photo-matching is incontestable. This jersey graded 6.5 by Mears has the value of a relic.
2021 SOLD for $ 715K by SCP
From the first matches, Gehrig feels an exhaustion in his arms and legs. He continues courageously but his achievement decreases. He does not yet know that he has a fatal degenerative disease and he is looking for technical solutions.
Baseball super champions are more effective with long, heavy and hard bats. A Louisville Slugger by Hillerich and Bradsby of the model used by Gehrig in 1936-1938 passed at Goldin on November 2, 2013. It is made of ash and weighs 37.1 ounces for a length of 35 inches.
A small weight reduction could help Gehrig to overcome this difficult course. In September 1938 he orders from Hillerich and Bradsby a Louisville Slugger weighing 36 ounces for 34 inches. Appreciating that new tests will be necessary, he specifies to the manufacturer to inscribe the weight on the knob.
This bat was used extensively in games during Gehrig's final season. Un-cracked despite many marks of balls, it is graded a perfect GU10 by PSA/DNA. Gehrig presented it to his former teammate Earle Combs who was DiMaggio's coach at that time. Remained in the Combs family, it was sold for $ 715K by SCP on April 3, 2021, lot 1.
2020 SOLD for $ 450K by Christie's and Hunt
Lou Gehrig had been the most exemplary of champions. He feels exhausted in the middle of the 1938 season. His arms and legs become weak but he continues. From 1923 until the fateful April 30, 1939, he played 2,130 consecutive games for the only team of his professional career, the New York Yankees. For the next game, it is he who presents the list of players to the umpires, without his name.
Medical testing in performed in June at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. The diagnosis is terrifying. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is incurable and the paralysis is progressive and inexorable. It is not contagious. Mental functions are not affected by this partial destruction of the brain. The champion's life expectancy is three years. He will not reach it.
Lou is courageous. On July 4, 1939 in the Yankee Stadium, the Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day is added to the Independence Day ceremonies. Lou delivers with extraordinary dignity in front of 62,000 spectators the most poignant speech in the history of sport : "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans ".
On December 16, 2020, Christie's in association with Hunt sold at lot 87 for $ 450K the letters exchanged by Gehrig throughout his final phase with Dr O'Leary of the Mayo Clinic : original letters sent by the champion and carbon copies of the doctor's answers. Lou remains lucid with a few bursts of hope and follows the considerations from the medical world about this pathology. He is informed of experiments on monkeys but fears being effeminated by injections of hormones.
Lou died on June 2, 1941, 17 days before his 38th birthday. In the United States, his disease is now named the Lou Gehrig Disease. He was not autopsied, and the cause and triggering factor have not been identified.