'Iron Horse' passed away at 37 after battle with disease that now bears his name
By Cash Kruth
Major League Baseball lost one of the pre-eminent figures of its history 75 years ago Thursday, when Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig died at age 37 from the disease that now often bears his name.
Born June 19, 1903, in New York, Gehrig was a two-time American League Most Valuable Player Award winner and a six-time World Series champion with the "Murderer's Row" Yankees. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1939 in a special election after he was forced to retire that season because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Gehrig was one of the game's most fearsome hitters of any era and the pinnacle of durability. He played in 2,130 consecutive games, which earned him the nickname "The Iron Horse." Gehrig's consecutive games record stood until it was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. on Sept. 6, 1995.
Gehrig won his first AL MVP Award in 1927, when he and Babe Ruth led an offensive attack for what many believe to be the greatest team in baseball history. That year, Gehrig hit .373/.474/.765 with 47 home runs, 52 doubles, 18 triples and 173 RBIs. He won the AL Triple Crown in 1934, hitting .363 with 49 homers and 166 RBIs.
His second AL MVP Award came in 1936 -- another championship year for the Yanks -- when he hit .354/.478/.696 with 49 home runs, 37 doubles and 152 RBIs.
Gehrig and the Yankees were well-known for their postseason success. He played in seven Fall Classics and hit .361 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 34 games.
He was a seven-time All-Star -- an honor first established in 1933 -- and twice finished second in the league MVP voting, along with five other top-10 finishes. Gehrig led the league in home runs three times, RBIs five times and runs four times. He also retired with 23 grand slams, a record since surpassed. Gehrig was named starting first baseman of the MLB All-Century Team in 1999.
His career came to an abrupt end on May 2, 1939, when he took himself out of the lineup to end his consecutive games streak. Gehrig never played in another game, finishing his career with a .340 batting average, 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs.
Gehrig officially retired on June 21, 1939 -- two days after news of his ALS diagnosis became public. The Yanks retired his No. 4 in a pregame ceremony, making him the first player to ever receive the honor. Gehrig was again honored at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, when he gave his "Luckiest man on the face of the Earth" speech.
He died two years later at his home on June 2, 1941 -- exactly 16 years after he began his consecutive games streak. Seventy-five years later, Gehrig's presence and accomplishments remain.
Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.