Some Gehrig fans remembered his 100th birthday on June 19, 2003, by giving a nod to his picture, watching Pride of the
Yankees, or paying tribute to him on MoreGehrig's The Memorial Wall. Some remembered two days late. And some, like Lucille Lasky-Nuzzi, took it to an extreme. She coerced her husband, Joseph,
and her son, Joey, into driving with her to Cooperstown to riffle through Gehrig's Hall of Fame file and attend Hall festivities
in his honor (for more information on the Gehrig celebration at the Hall not discussed below, read ALSA Celebration Puts Off Some).
June 17, Lou Gehrig Day at the Hall of Fame.
(His actual birthday was filled with other events, so the Hall set the Gehrig celebration two days earlier.)
When the Hall dedicates a day to a particular player, the whole town dedicates a day to that player. No less true for Lou
Gehrig. The gift shops displayed the handful of Gehrig's biographies still in print front and center and had baseball anthologies
opened to a picture or story of him. Of course, no shop could outdo the Hall of Fame itself. Every little thing, right down
to the welcome brochure/museum guide, featured Lou Gehrig.
Over the intercom played Carol Birch's version of Gehrig's biography (for more information on Birch's story, see Carol Birch Releases Gehrig CD). Every day the Hall posts "Today's Lineup," a list of events for the day. All 5 events for the day were Gehrig-related:
- 9:45 - Showing of Pride of the Yankees, Bullpen Theater.
- 12:30 - Gehrig Module Debut, a play on his life and career presented by Cooperstown Elementary students.
- 2:00 - Jeff Idelson, resident Gehrig expert, hosted a Sandlot Stories session about Gehrig.
- 3:00 - Another Sandlot Stories session, hosted by Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, an ALS activist.
- 6:30 - Second showing of Pride of the Yankees.
Lucille's first stop was a trip to the library to submerge into the Gehrig file. Because his widow kept virtually everything
from his career and donated all of it to the Hall upon her passing, Gehrig's is an extensive collection. A blessing and a
curse, as Lucille discovered when she sat at a library table surrounded by a seemingly endless flow of paper inked with Gehrig's
life and words.
Among the treasures in Gehrig's Hall of Fame file are:
- settlement papers between Eleanor Gehrig and Cristina and Heinrich (Lou's parents) Gehrig, resolving the lawsuit brought
against Eleanor for Lou's life insurance money.
- settlement contract signed by Gehrig on December 19, 1940, agreeing to drop charges against the New York papers for spreading
the rumor that he had infected the Yankees with ALS. Originally he sued for $1 million, but he settled for $17,500.
- Gehrig's letter to Eleanor written on Book-Cadillac Hotel (Detroit) stationery relating his thoughts about the consecutive
games streak. Though not dated, researchers believe this letter was written on May 3, 1939. Eleanor refused to allow the Hall
access to the last three pages, because they were "too personal."
- undated letter (except for "Saturday" in the top right-hand corner) from Gehrig to sportswriter Cobbledick on Hotel Cleveland
letterhead thanking him for "many kind thoughts in [that] mornings paper."
- Gehrig's letter to Commissioner Landis on January 4, 1926, requesting his help in obtaining back pay from the Hartford
minor league team.
- Edwin Diles' one-page school essay titled "A Person that I Admire," written on January 10, 1935, dedicated to Lou Gehrig.
The essay is accompanied by Gehrig's January 27, 1936, response to Diles.
- large, exclusive photo collection.
- the Hall's Director of Education/resident Gehrig expert Jeff Idelson's letter to invitees regarding the special anniversary
celebration of Pride, dated April 29, 2000.
- a "secret" scrapbook Eleanor kept during Gehrig's final years, chronicling the end of his career, illness, and death.
Gehrig was not aware she was keeping this book, and it is rarely discussed by Gehrig biographers.
- the legendary scrapbook Eleanor kept, in amazing attention to detail, of Lou's career. Its twin can be seen in Pride.
Though all of these things tingle the spine of any Gehrig fan, the last item is by far the most breathtaking, and only
a small percentage of Gehrig fans have had the honor of viewing the scrapbook in its entirety. Upon seeing the famous scrapbook
brought to her library table, Lucille practically lost her innate chatting habit, overcome by the enormity of the moment.
The infrequently seen pages of her hero's career were in front of her, having been touched by Gehrig himself, by the entire
Gehrig family. She had seen the replica in Pride, but having the real thing in the same room, let alone a matter of
meters away from her, was enough to tear her eye. Because of its age and value, the scrapbook can be handled only by staff
members wearing white gloves and must remain flat on the table. No flash photography is allowed as the light might cause damage.
These restrictions may seem harsh, but because of them the scrapbook has been shown so much care throughout its existence
that no repairs have been needed. The original glue, tape, and newspaper articles are still intact.
How steady of a hand Eleanor had to have bending over the scrapbook pasting article after article; how steady of a hand
Lou had to have to generate article after article! The years, the toil, the love all flood out of the pages of the scrapbook
cradling the viewer in their current. Lucille described the zenith of Gehrig fandom with one word - overwhelming.
The rest of her day was spent touring the Hall and attending the Lou Gehrig Day events. The Gehrig character module in
the small Bullpen Theater consisted of a group of Cooperstown fifth graders performing a 6-act play written on the virtues
the kids decided Gehrig encompassed. Determined, courageous, tough, shy, quiet, loyal, hard-working. A little boy named Luke
played Lou Gehrig, appropriately enough considering Eleanor's nickname for Lou was Luke. At the end of the play, the kids
took part in a question and answer session with the audience. Lucille, brave, talkative woman that she is, told Luke this
bit of trivia. The audience applauded for him. Luke grinned from ear to ear, leaning over to his buddy to audibly whisper,
"I can't believe it! Lou Gehrig's nickname from his wife was Luke!"
After the play, Lucille found her way to the Hall's room containing the premier Gehrig memorabilia. His Yankee Stadium
locker is the main attraction. A pinstripe jersey and his cap remained behind the plate glass protector in the lockers opening.
Surrounding the locker were pictures and more pictures.
At the time, the locker was rather empty because many of the artifacts were traveling with the Hall's Baseball as America
mobile exhibit. His glove and the silver trophy McCarthy presented him on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day were among the valuables
missing, but counting all of the precious Gehrig memorabilia she had seen that day, Lucille was far from heartache.
The next event was a Sandlot Series session hosted by Jeff Idelson, the resident Gehrig expert. He presented the audience
with the only color footage of Lou Gehrig in existence and full-length audio of a 30-minute interview Gehrig gave to KROC-AM
radio in Rochester, MN, on August 22, 1939, during a trip to the Mayo Clinic. Gehrig agreed to the interview on the condition
that the discussion remain on baseball. (Get the full-length transcript of this interview at 1939 Radio Interview)
The following event was another Sandlot Series, this one hosted by Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. He gave a signing for his
book My Life in Baseball, and discussed his work with ALSA.
In between events, Lucille hobnobbed with the likes of Dale Petroskey (Hall president), Catfish Hunter's widow (ALSA chapter
president), and even got a dinner and a kiss from living baseball legend Clete Boyer. But nothing compared to seeing Gehrig's
file, namely that book of newspaper clippings.
With her trip complete, her tribute to Gehrig the best she was able to give him, the only thing left for her to do was
to tell her story in the hopes of persuading other Gehrig fans to go to the Hall to see what lies at the end of the Gehrig
|Joseph, Lucille, Joey, and the "secret" scrapbook