“All of his exploits on the baseball field made him an American hero,” says author Alan Gaff. “But then his death made him a legend.”
Lou Gehrig's name is synonymous with super stardom, the New York Yankees, a stellar personal life and a haunting death. Not really the cup of tea of Fort Wayne author and historian Alan Gaff. But then Gaff stumbled on a treasure, a series of articles written 90 years ago by Gehrig for the Oakland Tribune.
“It was written during the 1927 Yankee season,” says Gaff, “and that team was arguably the best baseball team of all time.”
Gehrig talks in those articles about life on the road with the Yankees that championship season, talks about his best friend fellow Yankee Babe Ruth and other players. Gaff uses the articles in his new book, 'Lou Gehrig: The Lost Memoir' to give us a fuller picture of the man. Gehrig was born in New York in 1903 to German immigrant parents, grew up playing baseball in the streets of New York joined the Yankees full time in 1925 to help support his parents.
“He was the kind of guy you would want for a friend,” says Gaff. “Everybody liked him there was never a bad word a harsh word about Lou Gehrig by anybody.”
Central to Gehrig's life was his friendship with Babe Ruth who took the young player under his wing, became a mentor and helped develop his game and personal life. An off-the-field sweetheart on the diamond Lou Gehrig was a monster, an explosive hitter, seven time all star, triple crown winner, two time MVP and six time world champion. They called him The Iron Horse. But the fairy tale was shattered in 1939 when Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, incurable and deadly, known to this day as Lou Gehrig's disease. His farewell speech to his fans remains a study in courage, grace and dignity. Gehrig died in 1941 at age 37 but he's still with us, a classic American success story, a short life well lived, and a fearlessness in the face of death that anyone who knows of him can still take pride in. This is Eric Olson reporting.