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A batting average is more than just a number.

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Records and Leaderboard Appearances

Some say it's that solid, German-bred stature Gehrig had that constituted his pitch-reversing knack. Some say it was the pickled eels that Mom would feed him. The wise say it's because Gehrig was better in the box than most could pray to be. These are the stories behind his numbers.

THE STORIES

By Season:

1923

While at Columbia University, he played only the 1923 season for the Lions, finishing with 7 HR, 28 H, 24 R, .444 BA, .937 SLG, in 63 AB. Not too shabby. It was enough for the New York Times to dub him "the best college player since George Sisler."

One Yankee scout saw Gehrig play in one Columbia game and hit one colossal homerun. The scout, Paul Kritchell, was convinced the Yanks needed that boy. After Columbia's season was over, Gehrig reported to Yankee Stadium where he took batting practice with the big dogs. He was 20 years old, 6'1", and a muscular 190 pounds, and he was joining a legendary team. Yankee vet Waite Hoyt said of the boy's performance, "We all knew that he was a big league ball player in the making. Nobody could miss on him."

Though his bat was astounding, his defensive skills suffered from neglect. He was sent to a Yankee boot camp in Hartford, Connecticut. There he was "seasoned," prepared for the caliber of play in the show. He spent what was left of the 1923 season (59 games) in Hartford, doing well at the plate. He hit 24 HR. Of those, 7 he hit in 7 days. It was a record pace in the Eastern League - not to mention a helluva talent to be found in a 20-year-old kid who blushed at his own fortune. One newspaper headline read, "Lefty Lou Gehrig at Present Ratio Would Hit 57 Homeruns in Full Season."

1924

He spent the spring down South with the Yankees, showing promise. But Huggins wasn't enirely convinced his protege was ready for the big leauges.  So, Gehrig headed back to Hartford to "season" some more. This time he played 134 games, gave Hartford 111 R, and hit 37 HR, bringing his grand total to .369 for the season.

On June 17, 1924, Gehrig hit his only minor league grand slam.

1925

He pinch hit for Pee Wee Waniger on June1. On June 2 he broke into the lineup.  After Gehrig became a regular in the lineup, his bat feats escalated. A .295 BA with 29 HR for the season. The first of his show grand slams came on July 23, 1925, against Washington's Firpo Marberry. Gehrig would hit 23 grand slams in his career - a record unbroken.

He earned the nickname Buster because of his young age and his shots that were strong enough to bust the stitches out of the cowhide.

His accomplishments were overshadowed, as they usually would be, by Babe Ruth, who started the season with "the bellyache heard round the world." Because of Ruth's poor health, Gehrig did not receive near the hype a rookie of his talent would normally receive.

1926

Gehrig felt like a true pro. He put in an order for a custom-made Louisville Slugger 35" long, 37 oz., with a large barrel and knob and a medium handle. These are the bat specifications he would use for the majority of his career.

August 13, 1926, Gehrig hit two out-of-park homeruns off "Big Train" Walter Johnson. This was mythic for two reasons. First, Gehrig was one of only 2 players to ever hit 2 homeruns off of Johnson in one game. Second, the homers were out-of-park, salt in a wound.

Gehrig also played in his first World Series. He batted .348 and, at first base, had 79 chances without tallying a single error. Go Buster.

1927

AL MVP award went to, surprise, Lou Gehrig. Gehrig was the league leader in total bases (447), doubles (52), and RBI (175, a record back then). As far as the rest of his offensive standing, let's just say he finished second in the league for virtually everything: .373 BA, 218 H, 149 R, 18 3B, 109 walks, 47 HR.

Impressive numbers out of context. Now take into account that Gehrig was batting directly behind Ruth, who hit his record 60 HR, and the fact that the 1927 Yankees team was a thing of fantasy. For a 24-year-old kid to swipe the league MVP in such company doesn't deserve simple attention; it rightfully deserves eternal awe. Amen.

1928

Gehrig hits 3 HR in one game, against the Chicago White Sox. A rare feat. But certainly not his best.

The World Series pit Yankees against Cardinals. This Series was Gehrig's finest. He hit 4 HR (2 in one game), got 5 H in 11 AB, 9 RBI, and achieved a fascinating .545 BA. Incidentally, only Ruth had hit 4 HR in a Series previously ('26 Series).

1931

Gehrig's best season, some would argue. Ruth and Gehrig were in a hot race to become reigning Homerun King of the season. Gehrig would have won, but he was robbed blind of a 2-run homer by teammate Lyn Lary. When Gehrig hit the ball, it headed toward the wall, but it looked like it might fall inside. Lary, who was on second base, assumed the outfielder would catch the ball, so, instead of rounding third and heading home, Lary headed toward the Yankee dugout along third base side. In the uproar of the moment, Gehrig did not see Lary leave the path. As soon as Gehrig stepped over the plate, he was called out for passing the runner ahead of him. Consequently, the HR was erased from the books, and Ruth and Gehrig ended with a HR tie, 46 apiece.

The rest of the Yankee team was irate with Lary (except, maybe, Ruth). But Gehrig shrugged it off. "He's no more to blame than I am," he said. "If I had kept my head up, I would have seen what happened and waited for him to come back and finish his run before I scored."

No matter. The rest of the season was good to Gehrig. He set a record with 184 R, he scored a record 301 runs produced (runs + RBI - HR), and Sporting News named him AL MVP.

1932

All Ruth lovers beware; one of Gehrig's greatest demonstration of power hitting is about to be rubbed in.

June 3, Yankees vs. Phillies, Shibe Park, Philadelphia. Connie Mack had a terrible time getting his pitchers to pose threat to Gehrig. Mack tried three different pitchers-- George Earnshaw, then Leroy Mahaffey, then Eddie Rommel. Earnshaw, poor fellow, had 3 of his pitches ripped over the wall. Then Mahaffey tried; failed. Gehrig hit number 4 off him. Mack then tried putting in Rommel in the late innings. If it weren't for Philly's outfielder Al Simmons' leaping ability, Gehrig would have gotten number 5.

No one had ever hit 4 homeruns in 4 consecutive at-bats since 1894 (Bobby Lowe, Boston Beaneaters).

Though Gehrig got little attention, as usual, for his amazing performance (because Giants manager John McGraw announced his retirement), he, as usual, didn't complain.

1934

Gehrig wins the prestigious Triple Crown - the first Yankee to do so. Triple as in leading the league in three batting numbers: HR, RBI, and BA. Gehrigs numbers: 49 HR, 165 RBI, .363 BA. His credibility as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, first basemen ever is solidified.

1936

Yankee fans watch Ruth's departure and Joe DiMaggio's graceful entrance. Meanwhile, Gehrig shows 'em how its done: .354 BA, 49 HR, 152 RBI, and the AL MVP, again. Just another day in the trenches.

1938

Gehrig slumped, producing mere-for-a-god 114 runs. He tired midseason and didn't know why. However hard he pushed himself, he could not get his edge back.

1939

The slump had grown so bad that it seemed to be affecting Gehrig physically. He was having trouble running, walking, sitting. In June the slump was redefined as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a terminal illness. Gehrig retired in July.

Career Tallies/General Comments:

494 HR, career.

Batted cleanup (4th) in Murderers Row, a term first used in 1921 to describe the lethalness of the Yankee offense.

Besides Hercules strength, there wasn't much flare or signature in Gehrig's swing: flat-footed stance in the middle of the box, stride while beginning swing, then twist torso to meet ball and convert all muscular power into ball speed and distance.

When a pitcher brushes back a batter, he shows a fear/respect for the batter's prowess at the plate. Conversely, if a pitcher refuses to brush back a batter, even if that batter is a pinnacle member of Murderers Row, he shows a sign of respect for the batter as a powerful, intimidating player overall. In his 17 years, Gehrig was only brushed back 45 times. He was walked 132 times.

Frank Graham, a reporter who often traveled with the Yankees, wrote, "There were pitchers in the league who frankly confessed they would rather pitch to Ruth than to [Gehrig]."

Gehrig constantly worried about his hitting. If one tiny thing went wrong, he would drive himself and everyone else nuts until he found a remedy.  Eventually, he worried so much, he worried himself out of worry and just let things come as they would.

Charlie Gehringer, Detroit Tiger whose name follows Gehrig's in the Hall of Fame, once said of him, "Gehrig was probably a better all-around player [than Ruth] by far, but he'd get no special attention even though he'd hit just about as many homeruns."

Gehrig racked up far and above 100 RBI each year for 13 consecutive years (he played for 17).

During his prime, Gehrig's jersey number, 4, was referred to by opposition as "the hard number" because it was impossible to get past batter #4 without being constantly on guard.

Records and Leaderboard Appearances

Written by S. Kaden, 2002