Lou Gehrig Hits Record 23rd Grand Slam  

U.S. #2417 was issued at the 50th anniversary ceremony of the Baseball hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Stepping up to bat in the first inning with the bases loaded, Lou Gehrig hit the 23rd grand slam of his career on August 20, 1938.

Born in New York City in 1903, Henry Louis Gehrig was the son of German immigrants who’s just moved to America a few years prior. Gehrig was a gifted athlete as a child, and his mother worked extra jobs to provide him with the best possible future.

U.S. #2417 FDC – 1989 Gehrig First Day Cover.

Gehrig went on to study engineering at Columbia University while playing fullback on the school’s football team. He also pitched for the baseball team, which nicknamed him Columbia Lou. But Gehrig’s strength at the bat earned him a spot on the Yankees roster in April 1923, the same year Yankee Stadium opened. Gehrig used his $1,500 signing bonus to buy his parents a nice house in the suburbs.

U.S. #3408t was issued for the Legends of baseball set.

Gehrig made his major league debut that June and the following year replaced the aging first baseman. That marked the start of his impressive 2,130 consecutive game streak – a record that remained unbroken until 1995. Many sportswriters have used the word “durable” to describe Gehrig. Even his nickname, “The Iron Horse,” implied stability.

Gehrig’s career was full of incredible accomplishments. He set an American League record in 1931 with 184 runs batted in (RBIs); hit four home runs in one game in 1932; and earned the 1934 Triple Crown with 49 home runs, a .363 average, and 165 RBIs.

On a team with giants like Babe Ruth, Gehrig was a quiet and unassuming player. His teammates respected him all the more for playing through the incredible pain that marked his later years.

U.S. #3408t FDC – 2000 Gehrig First Day Cover.

During the 1938 season, Gehrig was struggling. Though his health was beginning to fail, his statistics were higher than average in the second half of the season. Then on August 20, Gehrig stepped up to the plate in the first inning and hit a grand slam against Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Buck Ross. That earned Gehrig another record – one that wouldn’t be broken for 75 years.

U.S. #3408t FDC – First Day Cover featuring Gehrig’s career stats.

The following year, Gehrig’s career was cut short when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. On July 4, 1939, some 61,000 people attended “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day” at Yankee Stadium. In his stirring speech, Gehrig said, “… today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

U.S. #3513 features an image based on a vintage postcard of Yankee Stadium.

Gehrig remained active in the community until his death in 1941. The tradition of retiring a player’s uniform began when Gehrig left the game in 1939. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in a special election that year.

Click here for a neat video about Gehrig’s Grand Slam, here for a nice collection of video clips from his career, and here to see his farewell speech.

And click here to read last year’s discussion about This Day in History.

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  1. Today, we celebrate a milestone in the sport of professional baseball. The world of baseball, is full of expressions we now used in our ordinary (vernacular, colloquial) language such as thinking ‘outside the box’. So on this memorable Saturday, here’s something ‘out of left field’.

    Most such ‘baseball’ expressions have now evolved even to the point of completely missing the original meaning, as is too obvious in today’s professional tennis organization. In olden days, to hit a Grand Slam meant to hit a home run, WHEN ALL BASES WERE FULL; thus running 4 batters in (RBIs); and so it is to this day.

    The world of professional tennis competition also boasts of four great international flagships, including the UK, France, Australia, and US Open (at Flush Meadow? showing my age?) In Lou Gehrig’s day, to be a tennis Grand Slam hero, one needed to be champion at all four venues, within the one sport-calendar year. To this day, only Ms Steffi Graff (Germany) did this in the 90’s, along with Ms Billy Jenkins (USA), Rod Laver (OZ), and Margaret Court (OZ), in earlier days. Not even our super star Ms Martina Navratilova managed it, even though she won Wimbledon 9 times! (never will be repeated I suspect). Ms Serena Williams, our great (greatest?) tennis player that she is, did not win a grand slam in the strictest sense, when again she won the top UK Wimbledon lawn tennis tournement in June this year, as we heard time and again from afore mentioned bunch of reporters. Rather she won a Grand Slam event.

    So nowadays, we hear about a tennis player winning a grand slam with no regard about the original meaning of the term. A champion will be referred to as a ‘6, 13, or 22 grand slam winner’ by most of the younger crop of reporters at different mainstream American news networks, without batting an eyelid (and neither the audience of millions being kettled where they are wanted to be). What else would you expect from uninformed, uneducated, uninterested in the truth, junior media officers/anchors unbothered with history, we face in our national press feeding us nonsense on a daily basis (where are those NDC emails about Bernie? We mean the contents, not the source of the leak; whether Wikileaks, Chinese, Russians, Anonymous, baddie North Korean; ever seen a map of the Middle East on Fox? BBC?).

    Anyway, less politics the better, although it is so difficult to avoid when it permeates everything ordinary Americans used to think as achievable goals (education, culture, science, social (elderly) security, arts, health and leisure, hygiene, environment, employment, fair tax, and representation), or at least we did back in Lou Gehrig’s day.

    As your article describes, Lou Gehrig’s achievement meant so much more than setting a baseball milestone (health, etc). Which kid did not think of baseball as the crucible of his/her social life, as on return from school on Friday afternoons, say, they gathered in the local park all over our Country’s little villages/towns, set up make-shift bases (unwisely, my school bag as second-base once), sides were picked, and those on the sidelines brought in some water to keep us healthy until supper time? — does this Middle America still exist?

    Lou Gehrig’s was more than a baseball icon; a brave, honest, talented, and hard working athlete, as he ‘stepped up to the plate’ time and again, and with gentlemanly behaviour in public life, as example to us all kids of the day; but sadly now replaced with today’s superstars of dopers, loud mouths, violent, an often talentless, individuals more concerned with dosh and notoriety. GdR

  2. What a great player from what I have read about Lou. I am a lifelong Red Sox fan but you have to admire one of the all time greats. One has to wonder if Babe Ruth, as great as he was, statistics’ would have been altered without Lou Gehrig batting right behind him for so may years.

  3. A Rod may have hit more but it took him 22 years to accumulate them.
    Gehrig only had 14 full seasons. His numbers would have surpassed Ruth
    if he could have had 22 years like A Rod. His career batting average of
    /340 makes A Rod’s look puny in comparison.

  4. Several years ago I had a neighbor, tall, muscular man who has the same disease. He just seemed to melt away a little more each day.

    I always read TDIH early in the day and then at the end I go back and read the comments. Enjoy it all!!

  5. What an Irony. Yesterday we learned about “Old Ironsides” and today we learn about “The Iron horse”!
    Thanks mystic

  6. Wonderful article about a truly great man who performed so well with out PED’s. I would erase A Rod from the list.

  7. A truly great man. The movie about him is really wonderful. I commented on the Babe Ruth story you posted and must say that Lou did all of his great feats with really poor baseballs. He also had several fielding awards. Those years were great for America and I wish I could have seen some of the games and the 5 lb. wool uniforms and ugly gloves. Thanks Mystic.

  8. And don’t forget Lou’s farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. Probably the most memorable in sports history. Little wonder it’s called to this day, “Baseball’s Gettysburg Address.”

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