May 2, 1939: Lou Gehrig Isn’t In The Yankees Lineup Anymore


75 years ago today (June 2, 1941), Lou Gehrig passed away from ALS, a few days shy of his 38th birthday. The day he pulled himself out of the lineup of the New York Yankees is one of the 18 excised chapters from my second book, “The Games That Changed Baseball: Milestones In Major League History”, now available for pre-order from McFarland!

Date: May 2, 1939

Site: Briggs Stadium

Teams: New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

Significance: Lou Gehrig is absent from the Yankee lineup for the first time in 2,130 games

Impact: Baseball’s beloved Iron Horse is sidelined permanently with ALS; Gehrig becomes a tragic figure

“His greatest record doesn’t show in the book. It was the absolute reliability of Henry Louis Gehrig. He could be counted upon. He was there every day at the ballpark bending his back and ready to break his neck to win for his side. He was there day after day and year after year. He never sulked or whined or went into a pot or a huff. He was the answer to a manager’s dream.” — Sportswriter John Kieran in the New York Times


“[Lou Gehrig] took the lineup to umpire [Steve] Basil at home plate. He knew he was out. It was announced he wasn’t going to play that day. He walked past us on the bench. I was sitting with relief pitcher Johnny Murphy. The drinking fountain was just beyond us. [Lou] took a drink of water and he stayed down there. I said to Johnny, ‘He’s crying.’ Johnny reached back and took a towel and threw it. It landed right on Lou’s head. Lou wiped his face and finally came up after being down for about two minutes. Everybody ignored him. They were looking yet they weren’t looking. They didn’t want him to see them looking at him.” – Ellsworth (Babe) Dahlgren, the man who replaced Gehrig as the Yankees’ first baseman, recalling in a television interview the moment when Gehrig’s consecutive game streak ended in Detroit.

“It’s just as well he made up his mind to get out. I never wanted to hear people shout at him, ‘Ya big bum, ya’ if Lou made an out or messed up a ball. Lou’s been too grand a fellow, too big a figure in baseball for that sort of thing.” — Yankee manager Joe McCarthy

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