You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1939, Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak ends at 2,130.
Gehrig is known as “The Iron Horse,” which he should be, as he demolished teammate Everett Scott’s record of 1,307 consecutive games played. Scott was the first to play in 1,000 straight; Gehrig’s streak was longer than Scott’s career. But Gehrig was more than The Iron Horse.
The full “On this date …” archive
He is the greatest first baseman of all time.
“After Ruth, and before Williams, I never saw a better hitter,” said Paul Richards, who spent 55 years in the game. “He was so strong in his legs. His swing was so fundamentally sound.”
Gehrig won two MVPs (it wasn’t awarded until 1931) and a Triple Crown, and he had a career OPS of 1.080, third highest to Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. During Gehrig’s 17-year career, his teams were 501 games over .500; the only other position player to finish over 500 was Derek Jeter, who was 511 over in his 20-year career. Gehrig is the first player in the modern era (from 1900 on) to hit four homers in a game. (Rocky Colavito was the next to do so, 37 years later.) Gehrig’s four came consecutively, and in his chance at a fifth straight homer, he flied out 450 feet to center field.
Gehrig is the best major leaguer ever to come out of the Ivy League (Columbia). He was a destructive force offensively, even though Ruth overshadowed him. In 1927, a year in which he batted mostly behind Ruth, Gehrig drove in 173 runs. Of the top six seasons in RBIs in major league history, Gehrig has three of them. If his career hadn’t ended prematurely, he likely would have finished his career as the all-time leader in runs and RBIs.
Gehrig died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that is named after him. On May 2, 1939, in Detroit, the pain and soreness in his body became so overwhelming, he asked out of the lineup, replaced by Babe Dahlgren. So, the streak began in 1925 when Gehrig pinch-hit for Pee Wee Wanninger, who had ended Everett Scott’s playing streak. Gehrig died June 2, 1941, a few weeks short of his 38th birthday and 16 years to the day that he replaced Wally Pipp in the lineup.
Other baseball notes from May 2
In 1956, Don Hoak, then the third baseman for the Cubs, struck out six times in a game against six different pitchers. In the movie “City Slickers,” around the campfire, Bonnie says, “No, I like baseball, but I don’t memorize who played … third base … for Pittsburgh … in 1960.” To which, Mitch, Ed and Phil all immediately say, “Don Hoak!”
In 2002, Seattle’s Mike Cameron hit four home runs — and had a potential fifth caught in deep right field. Good guy, great athlete.
In 2007, Jarrod Saltalamacchia made his major league debut. His 15-letter last name became the longest in major league history.
In 1993, Gates Brown died. He was one of the game’s best pinch-hitters in the 1960s and 1970s. And I came to find out that Dave Smith, my sports editor at The Washington Star and The Dallas Morning News, was childhood buddies with Gates. “Gates and I were tight,” he said.
In 1993, Robb Nen recorded his first major league save. He threw close to 100 mph with a vicious slider. Former teammate Jeff Conine said a buddy of his wanted to catch Nen. Conine said he couldn’t, and shouldn’t; he would get killed. Conine threw that day to his buddy at a picnic just to show him what minor velocity looked like. Conine said his first throw to the guy was maybe 75 mph, “and it broke his watch. If it hadn’t broken his watch, it would have broken his wrist.” Conine added that his friend said, “OK, maybe I can’t catch Robb Nen.”