Thursday, August 18, 2005

 

Editor's Note: Today I turn the blog back over to my cousin, Joshua Stober. Joshua, who described Hideki Irabu's Yankee Stadium debut back in July, writes today about another Yankee, one more fondly remembered by the Yankee Stadium faithful.



August 18th, 1931

Lou Gehrig Continues Streak

Two events in baseball history pique my interest with this date. The one I chose not to cover, which I hope Richard will take on next year, is Ted Williams calling his $12,500 salary “peanuts.” Thoughts on the ridiculous salary structure of baseball today aside, I’ve instead chosen to look at one of baseballs more noble streaks.

Lou Gehrig reached a milestone 1000th consecutive game in his streak on this date. Gehrig’s story is a well known one; struck down by ALS which ended his streak on
May 2nd, 1939 and ended his life just a few years later, Gehrig held one of the greatest nicknames in all nickname history: the iron horse. In my mind, what makes Gehrig’s streak even more impressive is that he chose to stop playing when no one else, not even his manager, would ask him to sit down. Fellow players could see the obvious and knew that something was wrong, but it took Gehrig to know that he no longer held the talent to perform on the level he knew he could perform at on a day to day basis for the Yankees.

Baseball’s other “iron” player, with the much less cool “iron man” moniker (which if you ask me is better fit for a guy like Lance Armstrong) is of course Cal Ripken, Jr. Many criticized Ripken for continuing to play well beyond when he broke Gehrig’s streak, which I myself don’t see as much of a problem. No one told Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire to stop hitting home runs one past the mark that had been set for them.

The problem of course with Ripken was that he didn’t always have the seasons that Gehrig was having. Ripken only batted over .300 five times during his career, while Gehrig did it for every season from his rookie year until 1938, when it dropped to .295 (which just happened to be his batting average his first full season with the Yankees.) Ripken repeatedly batted well below .295 and his Orioles teams were only once world champs.

It makes you think, had ALS not stricken Gehrig, he would have had at least three or four good seasons left before World War II sent the boys to war. It begs the question of whether or not Ripken could have even broken that streak, especially with the stats that Gehrig had.




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