Back Lot Number: 860  

Lot 860
Description: On June 1, 1925, a young bench player by the name of Henry Louis Gehrig entered a New York Yankees game as a pinch hitter. The following day, the Yankees manager placed Gehrig in the starting lineup to spell first baseman Wally Pipp who, along with several other Yankees, had been in a slump. Incredibly, those first two games were the inception of a streak that would become one of the most revered in the history of organized sport. Lou Gehrig would go on to play in a record 2,130 consecutive games, lasting a span of 14 years. Through trial and triumph, injury and accolades, Gehrig would persevere. At the time, his record was thought by historians to be insurmountable. Not only did Lou Gehrig exemplify longevity during his career with the Yankees, but he was a model of consistent excellence on the diamond. His hitting was nothing short of fearsome. Had he not played in the shadow of the immortal Babe Ruth during his prime years of the late 1920s and early 1930s, Gehrig's offensive feats would have been lauded as some of the greatest in baseball history. His fielding was equally impressive. The fact that Lou Gehrig accomplished his streak while playing one of the more demanding daily fielding positions only magnifies its significance. As Gehrig entered the mid to late 1930s as the captain of the New York Yankees, he seemed poised to finally capture the attention of New York sports fans that he had deserved for so many years prior. Although the Yankees again secured the World Championship title in 1938, there were anomalies to Lou Gehrig 's performance during the season. His numbers, by mortal standards, were very fine, but in comparison to his typical career statistics, there was a marked drop. In late 1938, Lou Gehrig explained, "I tired mid season. I don't know why, but I just couldn't get going again." Even during the 1938 World Series, Lou managed only four singles, which was further indication of his notable drop in power hitting. With the coming of spring in 1939, the Yankees readied themselves to defend their two previous consecutive World Championships. At the very beginning of Spring Training, it was evident that something was not right with Lou Gehrig. Sportswriter James Kahn remarked at the time, "I think there is something wrong with him. Physically wrong, I mean. I don't know what it is, but I am satisfied that it goes far beyond his ball-playing. I have seen ballplayers 'go' overnight, as Gehrig seems to have done. But they were simply washed up as ballplayers. It's something deeper than that in this case, though. I have watched him very closely and this is what I have seen: I have seen him time a ball perfectly, swing on it as hard as he can, meet it squarely รน and drive a soft, looping fly over the infield. In other words, for some reason that I do not know, his old power isn't there... He is meeting the ball, time after time, and it isn't going anywhere." Others took notice as well. Manager Joe McCarthy, who had always been one of Gehrig's closest mentors on the Yankees, tried to support Gehrig's meager play, hoping that he would eventually snap back to the form once considered as a given for the Yankee slugger. During the first month of the 1939 season, Gehrig's statistics were abysmal with a .143 batting average and only a single RBI. On April 30, 1939, the Yankees were at home playing a game against the Washington Senators. As the 1939 World's Fair opened across town to enormous crowds, the Yankees played the April 30th game before a modest gate number of 23,712. Little did those fans realize they were witnesses to history. Gehrig went 0 for 4 that fateful day, adding fuel to the swirling speculation that he should be removed from the Yankees lineup. The next day was a day off, before the team would open a series in Detroit against the Tigers. On May 2, 1939, Lou Gehrig sought out Yankees manager Joe McCarthy in the Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. Arthur E. Patterson recounted the meeting in the New York Herald Tribune: "Joe, I'd like to talk to you," Gehrig said. "Sure thing, Lou. C'mon around the corner here and sit down," McCarthy said. "Joe, I'm not helping this team any," Gehrig said. "I know I look terrible out there. This string of mine doesn't mean a thing to me. It isn't fair to the boys for me to stay in there. Joe, I want you to take me out of the lineup today." While it was difficult for Gehrig's longtime friend and manager to hear, McCarthy understood Gehrig's intentions and granted his request. At the insistence of Gehrig himself, in what has become one of the more legendary and poignant moments of the era, Gehrig mandated that he be permitted to deliver the lineup card to home plate on May 2, 1939 without his name written in the starting nine. With tears in the eyes of the once great and powerful Yankee slugger, Gehrig stoically presented the Yankees lineup card to the umpires with the name "Babe Dahlgren" written in as first baseman, so ending his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. John Kieran of The New York Times wrote, "So they unhitched the Iron Horse from the old wagon, but Marse Joe McCarthy didn't order him to be taken behind the barn and destroyed." More tragically, it would mark the beginning of the final chapter in Gehrig's life, as he was diagnosed shortly thereafter with a terminal illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Although Gehrig would press on to deliver the most famous oration in sports history with his July 4, 1939 "Luckiest Man" speech, his stature as the "Iron Man" of baseball had come to an end. Fitting for a man of Gehrig's integrity, the "Iron Horse" succumbed to the horrid disease on June 2, 1941, at 10:10 p.m., sixteen years to the day after he had first replaced Wally Pipp as first baseman for the New York Yankees. On that date of May 2, 1939, when Lou Gehrig unexpectedly walked to home plate to deliver the lineup card, the umpires, according to period news accounts, were "stunned" to see that Gehrig was not in the lineup. Preceding the game, the Detroit Tigers announcer revealed to the crowd at Briggs Stadium, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time Lou Gehrig's name will not appear on the Yankee lineup in 2,130 consecutive games." During the announcement, Lou Gehrig sat on the Yankees bench with tears in his eyes, almost as if he himself knew that his body was failing. When Lou Gehrig was standing at home plate on May 2, 1939, he was photographed with Detroit Tigers manager Del Baker and the game umpires. An Associated Press photographer captured the moment with Gehrig's facial expression clearly illustrating the somber tone of the day. This very photograph appears to picture Lou Gehrig wearing the offered New York Yankees warm up jacket. The jacket itself is typical of the period, with a wool construction body and grey expandable trim to the tail area, sleeves, and collar region. Original interlocked "NY" remains affixed to the breast area. "A.G. Spalding Bros." manufacturer's tag remains inside the tail front along with a strip tag with "Gehrig" chain stitched in red. Five of the original navy blue buttons remain on the jacket front, with buttons 4 and 5 (top to bottom) missing. Overall condition is outstanding, having been preserved in its original state and exhibiting perfect usage and wash wear characteristics. The grey trim to the tail, collar, and sleeve areas has a few minor holes from use and the interior tagging shows appropriate minor "rippling" from wash/use wear. Game worn warm up jackets from this period are virtually non-existent due to several factors, including the wool construction, which was subject to moth damage and frequently used for War rations. In addition, the jackets were expensive to produce and were typically issued to players for use over several seasons, thus limiting the initial supply. It is also confirmed through first person accounts, by numerous players and their families, that jackets were the one uniform piece often used and then discarded after a player's career had ended. During the 1940s-1950s, many of these jackets were literally worn as everyday outerwear. The lineage of the jacket is clearly defined, and can be traced directly to Eleanor Gehrig and a couple who were dear friends of the Gehrigs. Ray and Marion Parker were neighbors and friends of the Gehrigs while living in Riverdale, New York. Upon Lou Gehrig's tragic passing in 1941, the Parkers assisted Eleanor Gehrig with the process of finalizing Lou's affairs, including the disposal of his personal belongings. As a token of appreciation, the Parkers were given several items as mementos including a Yankees hat (since unaccounted for), a small presentational dish inscribed to Gehrig, and the offered warm up jacket. Additionally, it was further documented through family history that Lou Gehrig had signed several items to the Parkers inclusive of a photo within this auction (See Lot 828). The jacket then descended within the family of Marion Parker and is being offered for the first time since its presentation to the Parkers from Eleanor Gehrig. In comparison to the documented existence of numerous Lou Gehrig game worn jerseys and several game worn hats, the offered jacket is believed to be the lone surviving exemplar. While uniquely rare in and of itself, the jacket represents much more than a valuable game worn uniform piece. It signifies the end of a career for a great American icon. Gehrig's humility in the face of such insurmountable adversity was regarded by his peers as virtually immortal. The model by which Gehrig played the game, and more importantly, lived his life, is a standard that even many of the greatest players in history have not achieved. We are honored to offer this incredible piece of the utmost importance and do not hesitate to state that it is one of the most significant historic sports items to have ever been presented at public auction. Includes LOA from Hunt Auctions, letter of provenance from the family, photocopy of a 1939 image picturing Yankees manager Joe McCarthy wearing an identical jacket (supplied for dating corroboration), and modern copy of the original photograph picturing Gehrig wearing the jacket: EX
Sold For: $325,000.00

Estimated Price: (Estimate Upon Request)