April 30: Lou’s career beginning to end
The date April 30 was a memorable one for the Yankees and Lou Gehrig at both the start and finish of his Hall of Fame career.
It was on this date in 1923 that Gehrig, 19, a native New Yorker and a pitcher-first baseman at Columbia University, signed a professional contract with the Yankees. At that time, Gehrig was the second greatest player in Columbia’s baseball history. Already a star in the major leagues at that time was White Sox second baseman Eddie Collins, then in his 18th season.
On this same date in 1939, Gehrig played in the last of his 2,130 consecutive games. He went hitless in four at-bats in a 3-2 loss to the Washington Senators at the original Yankee Stadium. The next day was an open date for the Yankees, who traveled to Detroit. Before the May 2 game against the Tigers, Gehrig asked manager Joe McCarthy to remove him from the lineup.
It was later learned that Gehrig was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The man known as “The Iron Horse” never played another game in the major leagues. The difficult to pronounce disease would soon bear his name as it does today and remains incurable.
At the 1939 Winter Meetings in Cincinnati, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America held a vote to elect Gehrig into the Hall of Fame. The proposal was passed unanimously, but Gehrig was never officially inducted.
Although he is usually listed in the class of 1939, the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were during that summer when Gehrig was still on the Yankees’ roster. One of those 1939 inductees was Eddie Collins, along with Willie Keeler and George Sisler.
There were no Hall of Fame elections until 1942 when Rogers Hornsby was voted in by the BBWAA. By the time of that induction, however, Gehrig had already died of ALS June 2, 1941 at the age of 37.
The Major League Baseball schedule is made up annually without regard to such coincidences, but this May 2, which is Monday, the Yankees will once again find themselves in Detroit where one of the greatest careers in their franchise’s storied history came to an end.