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Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrigby Jonathan Eig
Synopses & Reviews
Lou Gehrig was the Iron Horse, baseball's strongest and most determined superstar — struck down in his prime by a disease that now bears his name. But who was Lou Gehrig, really? What fueled his ferocious competitive drive? How did he cope with the illness that abruptly ended his career and drained him of his legendary power? Drawing on dozens of new interviews and hundreds of pages of Gehrig's personal and previously unpublished letters, this definitive biography gives us a deeper, more intimate understanding of the life of an American hero.
Lou Gehrig is regarded as the greatest first baseman in baseball history. A muscular but clumsy athlete, he grew up in New York City, the sole survivor among four siblings. He idolized his hardworking mother and remained devoted to her all his life. Shy and socially awkward, especially around women, Gehrig was a misfit on a Yankee team that included drinkers and hell-raisers, most notably Babe Ruth. Gehrig's wife, Eleanor, was an ambitious young woman who pursued him and persuaded him to embrace his growing stardom. For years, rumors have persisted that she and Ruth had an affair, and that this was the event that ended the friendship between the two ballplayers.
Gehrig and Ruth formed the greatest slugging tandem in baseball history. They were the heart of the first great Yankee dynasty. After Ruth's retirement, Gehrig and a young Joe DiMaggio would begin a new era of Yankee dominance. But Luckiest Man reveals that Gehrig was afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) much sooner than anyone believed, as early as the spring of 1938. Despite the illness, he didn't miss a game that year, keeping intact his astonishing consecutive-games streak, which stood for more than half a century.
After he was diagnosed, Gehrig's doctors allowed him to believe he had a fifty-fifty chance of surviving what they knew to be a fatal illness. The same doctor who wrote him encouraging letters secretly wrote Eleanor Gehrig to tell her the terrible truth. But even as his body deteriorated and Gehrig realized he was dying, he never despaired. In his final months Gehrig proved himself truly to be the Iron Horse. The man who spoke spontaneously from the heart when he gave his great speech at his farewell in Yankee Stadium continued to sound the same themes: that he'd led a good life and had much to be thankful for.
In Luckiest Man Jonathan Eig brings to life a figure whose shyness and insecurity obscured his greatness during his lifetime. Gehrig emerges on these pages as more human and heroic than ever.
"Although his record of playing in 2,130 consecutive Major League baseball games (from 1925 to 1939) was eventually broken in 1995, Gehrig is still remembered as one of the sport's greatest figures. But Eig, a Wall Street Journal special correspondent, shows that the life of the'Iron Horse' wasn't quite as squeaky clean as Gary Cooper portrayed it to be in the 1943 film Pride of the Yankees. Still, the blemishes are strikingly minor in comparison to those of today's star athletes: the worst anyone can really say about Gehrig is that he didn't like spending money, or that sometimes he'd just barely appear in a game in order to continue his streak. This meticulous biography also tracks the Yankee first baseman's close family ties and the tensions between his German immigrant mother and his publicity-savvy wife, as well as Gehrig's friction with teammate Babe Ruth. There's a certain monotony to the seasons during Gehrig's peak years, but Eig manages to find lively anecdotes. Moreover, the final chapters, in which Gehrig slowly dies from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, present his story's medical aspects with powerful sensitivity. Holding its own against recent high-profile baseball bios (e.g., Richard Ben Cramer's portrait of Joe DiMaggio), Eig's book reminds readers that Gehrig's accomplishments are inseparable from the dignity of his character. Photos. Agent, David Black. (Apr.) Forecast: Blurbs from Rudy Giuliani and Roger Kahn could make this a hot spring seller." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"With splendid results, Jonathan Eig separates fact from fantasy in his stirring portrait of an athlete dying young. The Lou Gehrig he presents is more subtle, nuanced, and indeed more neurotic than the stiff, cardboard figure we previously knew. All of which makes Gehrig's tragic final struggle more moving and profound. A wonderful book." Roger Kahn, author of The Boys of Summer
"The ancient maxim 'Never get to know your heroes' does not apply to Lou Gehrig, the tragic Yankee whose life is so deftly and thoroughly examined by Jonathan Eig in this superb biography." Fay Vincent, former commissioner, Major League Baseball
"Jonathan Eig's portrait of Lou Gehrig is as elegant, understated, and powerful as the Iron Man himself." Jane Leavy, author of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy
"This is a book for Yankee fans, baseball fans, and anyone who wants to read about a man whose determination and heroism inspire us today." Rudolph W. Giuliani
"As my consecutive games streak grew, my curiosity about Lou Gehrig also grew and I wanted to learn more about him and what kind of person he was. Jonathan Eig's book, Luckiest Man, really helped me put all of the pieces together and gain a solid understanding of Lou, both on and off the field. I thought it was a wonderful book that provided insights about Lou, his amazing life and outstanding career." Cal Ripken, Jr.
About the Author
Jonathan Eig is a former writer and editor for the Chicago bureau of The Wall Street Journal and the former executive editor of Chicago magazine. He is the author of two highly acclaimed bestsellers, Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season. Luckiest Man won the Casey Award for best baseball book of 2005, and Opening Day was selected as one of the best books of 2007 by the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Sports Illustrated. Mr. Eig lives in Chicago, half a mile from the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, with his family.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Survivor
Chapter 2: "Babe" Gehrig
Chapter 3: At Columbia
Chapter 4: The Behemoth of Bing
Chapter 5: Goodbye, Mr. Pipp
Chapter 6: Coming of Age
Chapter 7: Sinner and Saint
Chapter 8: Barnstorming Days
Chapter 9: A Charmed Life
Chapter 10: The Crash
Chapter 11: Iron Horse
Chapter 12: Courtship
Chapter 13: Out of the Shadows
Chapter 14: A Night at the Opera
Chapter 15: The Next Big Thing
Chapter 16: Lord of the Jungle
Chapter 17: Strange Times
Chapter 18: The Longest Summer
Chapter 19: Like a Match Burning Out
Chapter 20: Last Chance
Chapter 21: Pitchers Once Feared His Bat
Chapter 22: The Bitter with the Sweet
Chapter 23: Luckiest Man
Chapter 24: The Bureaucrat
Chapter 25: Our Boy Is Pretty Discouraged
Chapter 26: He Was Baseball
Appendix: Lou Gehrig's Career Statistics
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