Every day was Lou Gehrig’s domain.
Opening Day was his specialty.
The Iron Horse played in 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees, and very possibly would have kept on going right up to World War II had he not been cut down by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Gehrig started every Opening Day from 1926-39, hitting safely and generally doing significant damage with the exception of 0-fers in his final two openers. Most importantly within his world at the time, the Bronx Bombers won seven of his first eight Opening Days, usually on their way to something big.
Now that we are four days away from the Major League Baseball Opening Series starting Saturday in Sydney, Australia, today we honor the first player ever to have his jersey number retired. Here is a close look at Gehrig on Opening Day:
22 for 52 (.423) with 3 HR, 12 R, 13 RBI, 5 2B, 2 3B, 4 BB
1926: 2 for 4, 3 R, 2 RBI, 3B, 2B, SB, BB, SH (12-11 win at BOS)
1927: 1 for 4, 2 RBI, 2B (8-3 win vs. PHI)
1928: 2 for 5, R, 2 RBI (8-3 win at PHI)
1929: 2 for 3, 2 R, RBI, HR, BB (7-3 win vs. BOS)
1930: 2 for 4, RBI (6-2 loss at PHI)
1931: 1 for 4 (6-3 win vs. BOS)
1932: 3 for 4, 3 R, RBI, HR, 3B, SB (12-6 win at PHI)
1933: 2 for 4, R, 3 RBI, HR (4-3 win vs. BOS)
1934: 2 for 3, R, BB (6-5 loss at PHI)
1935: 1 for 3, 2B (1-0 loss vs. BOS)
1936: 1 for 4 (1-0 loss at WAS)
1937: 3 for 4, RBI, 2 2B (3-2 loss vs. WAS)
1938: 0 for 2, R, 2 BB (8-4 loss at BOS)
1939: 0 for 4, 2 GDP (2-0 win vs. BOS)
Last summer in Cooperstown, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., the man who broke Gehrig’s “unbreakable” record for consecutive games, read Gehrig’s Hall plaque. Watch:
On April 16, 1940, the Yankees opened the season in Philadelphia and lost in the 10th when A’s pitcher Chubby Dean helped his own cause by going the distance and driving in the winning run with a fly to left. That Yankee club would “only” finish 22 games over .500 and it would be the only time in an eight-year span that it failed to reach the World Series.
What was most notable was the void on Opening Day. Lou Gehrig was not at first base. The Yankees honored him with Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, and he concluded his famous “Luckiest Man” speech with these words: “So I close in saying I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
The following year, Gehrig was gone, only 37. Today, MLB is a strong supporter of 4 ALS and efforts to find a cure. You can get involved as well by going to alsa.org and see how to help defeat what eventually became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Here is a look back at one baseball immortal . . .
Tomorrow in this countdown, there could be another who kept him company. Who should be No. 3?