Lou Gehrig

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Lou Gehrig's signature remains one of the most desirable in all of sports. While he had plenty of time to sign his name as a member of the New York Yankees, Gehrig autographs remain quite scarce. As a rookie in 1923 and into his second and third seasons, Gehrig's autograph was very basic and childlike. As his popularity grew, Gehrig learned the art of signing his name. Not one to turn down many requests for signatures, Gehrig typically scrawled his name on a number of items during his playing days, especially album pages, which are the most frequently seen.

Gehrig's autograph was typically penned so every letter was legible but, if hurried, he would occasionally sign an abbreviated version dropping the "ou" and just signing "L. Gehrig." After his retirement from baseball in 1939, Gehrig signed very few items, with most of his correspondence and requests for his autograph handled by his wife Eleanor. His career and life was cut short by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Gehrig died in 1941, two years after retiring from baseball. Most of the Gehrig material that survives has been penned on team-signed baseballs. As was the custom with the Yankees and anywhere Babe Ruth played, the Sultan of Swat graced the sweet spot of baseball. Gehrig typically signed on a panel adjacent to Ruth's autograph. Single-signed examples of Gehrig's signature are rarely seen and are typically penned on the side panel of the ball, as if Gehrig was still awaiting the great Ruth to place his name on the sweet spot. While many fans and collectors realize the significance of having Gehrig's signature a part of their collection, what they fail to realize is how truly rare his signature is. When it came to social behavior, Gehrig was the antithesis of Ruth. Since Gehrig was a private man, he signed infrequently compared to his boisterous teammate.

Subject Profile

Henry Louis Gehrig (1903-1941) was one of the most feared hitters on the New York Yankees during the 1920s and '30s, a team affectionately known as Murderers Row that already employed perhaps the greatest and most potent hitter in the history of the game, Babe Ruth. Gehrig grew up in the shadow of the New York Highlanders stadium, Hilltop Park, and earned a reputation as one of the great New York sandlot players. He gained national attention at the young age of 17 while playing for his Commerce High School baseball team and visiting the historic Wrigley Field in Chicago. With his team leading 8-6 in the top of the ninth, Gehrig blasted a grand slam over the right field wall, a "blow that would have made any big leaguers proud," according to the Chicago Tribune. Lou attended Columbia University on a football scholarship, but once again starred on the diamond as both a pitcher and a slugger. The Yankees came calling in 1923 when, in mid-April, Gehrig struck out 17 Williams College batters and eight days later hit two monstrous home runs with Yankees scout Paul Krichell in attendance. Lou signed with the Yanks in 1923, foregoing his final time at Columbia, and was shipped to the Hartford Senators where he hit .304 with 24 home runs in only 59 games.

After a couple years backing up veteran Wally Pipp, Gehrig became manager Miller Huggins' manager "today and from now on." On June 2, 1925, he began the one of the greatest streaks in the history of professional sports of 2,130 consecutive games over 15 seasons, from 1925-1939, a streak that earned him the nickname “The Iron Horse.” From the beginning, Lou helped the Yankees reach the World Series in 1926, though they fell to the St. Louis Cardinals for their first MLB title, and led them to eight more American League pennants and six World Series victories (1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938). The 1927 New York Yankees squad is widely considered the greatest baseball team in the history of the Major Leagues and Lou was in the heart of the lineup that featured not only Ruth, but also fellow Hall of Famers Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri, Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock. The 1927 Yankees, otherwise known as Murderers Row, won 110 games and Lou led the way with a .373 batting average, 218 hits, 47 home runs and the league lead in doubles (52), RBI (173) and total bases (447) to capture the American League Most Valuable Player award. The 1927 Yankees also topped the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 4-game sweep. As what seemed to be commonplace for Lou, his MVP season was overshadowed by the Babe's remarkable year when he clouted 60 home runs. In 1931, Lou set the American League record with 184 RBI, second only to Hack Wilson's 191 for the Major League mark. That year he also set the modern-day Major League record with four home runs in a single game, an missed a fifth by mere feet when fellow Hall of Famer Al Simmons made a spectacular catch. In 1934, Gehrig captured the Triple Crown, hitting 49 home runs while batting .363 while driving in and American League record 184 RBI.

Ruth departed the Yankees organization following the 1934 season and soon Gehrig, once again, had to fight for the headlines with the emergence of rookie phenom, Joe DiMaggio. In 1936, Gehrig led the league in homers with 49 and finished second in RBI (152) en route to his second AL MVP award. Sadly, the aging star would soon fade when he was stricken with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), familiarly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease following his diagnosis and subsequent death due to the debilitating disease. On May 2, 1939, Lou took himself out of the lineup for the first time on 15 years and the famed Streak ended at 2,130 consecutive games. Over the course of his career, Lou Gehrig drove in 150 or more runs seven times, had six seasons with a .350 batting average of better, eight years with 200 or more hits and five with 40 or more home runs. He holds the record for most seasons with 400 or more total bases (5) and hit a record 23 grand slams in his career. His amazing record of durability and longevity stood for 56 years when Cal Ripken topped the mark in 1995, eventually playing 2,632 consecutive games. Lou averaged 141 runs, 204 hits, 37 home runs and 148 RBI while posting a .447 on-base percentage, .632 slugging percentage and .340 batting average for 17 seasons. During Lou Gehrig’s 17 seasons (1923-1939) with the New York Yankees, he batted .340 with 493 home runs, 2,721 hits and 1,995 RBI. He was selected to 7 All-Star games, was a six-time World Series Champion and the American League Most Valuable Player twice (1927, 1928). On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium, Gehrig choked back his emotions in front of 62,000 adoring fans, he "considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth" ... and that he "might have been given a bad break, but I've still got an awful lot to live for." On June 2, 1941, 6 years to the date that he replaced Wally Pipp in the Yankees lineup, Lou Gehrig succumbed to the disease at his home in the Bronx. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in big Lou's honor. Henry Louis Gehrig was unanimously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.