"Introverted" would be an understated adjective to describe young Lou Gehrig. Shy, and painfully so, for the majority of
his life, Gehrig was often pegged by the press as being standoffish, even a bit too-good-for-thou. The truth was, Gehrig was
so self-conscious he was scared to silence by the possibility of saying something stupid. Gehrig admitted that when the press
approached him, "I would just about shit my pants." Teammate Babe Ruth, on the other hand, loved the limelight and would often
take the pressure off his shy young friend.
Even though he rarely talked during his early career, he seemed to bond with those that mattered, particularly Yankee manager
Miller Huggins. When "Hug" first met Gehrig, he asked the rookie if he was Jewish. Apparently Hug was hoping to have a more
diverse team to appeal to the diverse New York fan base. Despite being born a Gentile, Gehrig quickly became one of Hug's
favorites and vice versa. So much so that when Hug was rushed to St. Vincent's Hospital with a carbuncle in late September
of 1929, Gehrig was the most distraught Yank. Hug died a few days later from blood poisoning; Gehrig was a pallbearer.
Joe McCarthy would eventually replace Hug, joining in 1931. Many Yanks thought Babe Ruth, the oldest Yankee, should have
gotten Hug's job. Because of this, McCarthy endured a share of disdain towards him from the first time he put on a uniform.
Gehrig, naturally, ignored the crowd and showed McCarthy the utmost respect.
"You know, Bill," Gehrig said to his best friend and teammate Bill Dickey, "I like this McCarthy." "So do I," said Bill.
"He's our kind of guy, Lou."
That "kind of guy" would be a dedicated worker who wanted only the best from himself and his players. Gehrig had been raised
to respect that "kind" and to mind authority. When Gehrig retired, McCarthy was on his list of people to thank by name.
"In short, Lou had the same effect on [McCarthy] that he had on everyone he met, and McCarthy grew to look upon him as
he might upon a son or a younger brother," wrote Frank Graham, a reporter who often traveled with the Yankees and wrote the
classic Gehrig biography A Quiet Hero.
"What a wonderful fellow that Gehrig was!" McCarthy once said. "Just went out every day and played his game and hit the
Young shy guys who would join the Yanks in Gehrig's later career would find solace in the man who was in their position
just a handful of years earlier. Whereas some veterans would chide the rookies, Gehrig took them under his wing.
"I was very quiet, you know," Frankie Crosetti, who joined the Yanks in 1932, said. "I never opened my mouth. Lou made
me feel like I belonged."
In 1936, Joe DiMaggio joined the Yanks. Even he had problems adjusting to the big leagues. During one game, the home plate
umpire was cranky towards the rookie sensation and wasn't calling the pitches fairly. It did no good for DiMaggio to try arguing,
so Gehrig, who was on deck, defended him.
"That's the way he was," Crosetti said. "He was great."
Even opposing teams demonstrated a good deal of respect towards Gehrig. In a close play, Washington's Bucky Harris purposely
stomped on Gehrig's foot as he was crossing first base so Gehrig's throw home would go wide and allow the runner to score.
Harris' trick worked; Gehrig's throw was way off. Harris said after that, every time Gehrig saw Harris on the field, Gehrig
would just look at him with a hurt look, as if Harris had betrayed him. Before long, Harris felt so ashamed that he apologized
to Gehrig. Gehrig instantly brightened and forgave him.
Fans, children, the public, the police, everyone respected Gehrig because he did the same in return. Gehrig was particularly
fond of children, perhaps because his own childhood was lived in poverty that required him to work hard and mature quickly.
He and his wife, Eleanor, did not have children of their own, so his soft spot encompassed all kids he met.
The children in Gehrig's neighborhood adored him. One story tells of how Gehrig would play stickball in the streets with
the kids after coming home from Yankee Stadium. One day a neighborhood resident complained to the cops about the noise. Most
of the kids fled successfully when the cop cars showed up, but Gehrig and a few of his partners-in-crime were taken to the
police station. The desk lieutenant at the station realized the "perp" was Lou Gehrig and enjoyed a good laugh at the arresting
cop's na´vetÚ. Gehrig and his buddies had to promise not to be so disruptive, and then they were released.
From that point on, he had no trouble with the law. In fact, when New York City cops saw Gehrig's car, with license plates
"LG1," they saluted.
Frank Graham's son, Frank, Jr. idolized Gehrig. A well-known picture of the two shows Jr. with Gehrig's Yankee cap on.
When asked to recount what it was like to meet his idol, he said that he remembered how Gehrig's head was oddly smaller than
With all the love and admiration that Lou Gehrig had to give, it is truly sad his genes are not in this world today.