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Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig


Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig Cover

ISBN13: 9780743245913
ISBN10: 0743245911
Condition: Standard
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Lou Gehrig stepped onto the field at Yankee Stadium wearing a pinstriped uniform that no longer fit. His pants were bunched at the waist. His jersey billowed in the wind. The crowd hushed as they watched him walk, head bowed, feet shuffling, arms hanging weakly at his sides. They had seen him make the trip from the dugout to home plate thousands of times, but never like this, never with a look of dread creasing his face.

It was July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium, a hot and sticky afternoon. For the first time in his life, Gehrig was afraid to be on a ballfield. He was thirty-six years old and dying. His Yankee teammates and their opponents that day, the Washington Senators, were lined up on the infield grass, waiting for the ceremony to begin. His wife and parents watched from box seats along the third-base line. More than 61,000 people sat elbow to elbow in the stands.

Gehrig never looked up. When he finally reached home plate, he stopped and scratched at the dirt with his feet. The master of ceremonies introduced some of the special guests in attendance, including Gehrig's former teammate Babe Ruth and New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. Gehrig twisted his blue cap in his hands and tottered from side to side as he listened to a series of short speeches. Next came the presentation of gifts: a fishing rod, some silver plates, a trophy with an eagle on top. He accepted them without saying a word.

The crowd applauded, but only politely. Here was Gehrig, the greatest first baseman the game had ever seen. Yet for all his accomplishments, his movie-star looks, and his gentlemanly manner, fans, somehow, had never shown overwhelming enthusiasm for him. Sportswriters said he lacked color. He was no Babe Ruth, they complained. The Babe was the Bambino, their child, and people loved him unconditionally. Gehrig's nickname — the Iron Horse — was inspired by a train, and it was perfectly apropos. Most people don't appreciate a train's strength and reliability until they're standing on the platform one day and it doesn't show up.

When the presentations were over, the emcee, Sid Mercer, asked if the guest of honor had anything to say. Gehrig answered with a slight, almost imperceptible shake of the head, no. He was afraid he'd collapse if he tried to speak. Workers moved into position, ready to roll up the wires and pull down the microphones. Only then did it dawn on the men and women in the stands that he was going away. Cries of protest rang out. The shouting grew louder and spread like a fever through the stadium. Soon, all the fans were on their feet. Their voices came together in a chant that shook the grandstand: "We want Lou! We want Lou!"

Gehrig stood still. His shoulders hung limp and heavy. At last, Joe McCarthy, manager of the Yankees, walked over and whispered in his ear. Gehrig nodded, ran his fingers through his hair, and stepped hesitantly toward home plate. The chanting stopped. Silence blanketed the stadium again.

Ever so slowly, Gehrig leaned toward the microphones and drew a deep breath. He was about to deliver one of the saddest and strongest messages an American audience had ever heard.

Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Eig

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Adam Weinert, January 24, 2011 (view all comments by Adam Weinert)
I loved this book. It's depth and insight into a private man was compelling. While I am drawn to stories of men who are living in the shadows of better known men especially of Ruth's status only serves to highlight the character and resolve of one of the hardest working men in baseball history.
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William Jessup, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by William Jessup)
Jonathan Eig's Luckiest Man is the heartbreaking, but uplifting biography of Lou Gehrig. Eig does a fine job of transporting the reader to the New York of the twenties and thirties. He takes him into the rough and tumble immigrant neighborhood in which the young Gehrig learned to love baseball. Eig does a fine job of comparing the modern game to the “small ball” game, which Babe Ruth changed (but not single-handedly) with the home run.

Eig argues convincingly that, of the two Yankee greats, Gehrig was the more complete player. Simply stated, he was the game’s best first baseman. Even more impressive than his enormous talent, however, was his courage and his modesty. Eig introduces us to a wonderful American who, just by being himself, made his teammates and friends better people.

The reader should recognize that the book’s subtitle is “The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig.” After having started to read this well researched book, there were times when I wanted to stop. That reaction is not a criticism, but a tribute to Eig’s ability to decipher ALS, the progressively debilitating disease that now bears the hero’s name. Eig anticipates the reader’s questions and answers them, employing the comments of Gehrig’s teammates, physicians and friends. Because this book tested my own “intestinal fortitude,” I could not put it down. It is a most rewarding read.
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Product Details

Eig, Jonathan
Simon & Schuster
United states
Baseball players
Baseball - History
Sports - Baseball
Sports - General
Baseball players -- United States.
Gehrig, Lou
Sports and Fitness-Baseball General
Publication Date:
April 2005
Grade Level:
9.25 x 6.25 in 25.48 oz

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Related Subjects

Biography » Sports
Sports and Outdoors » Sports and Fitness » Baseball » Biographies
Sports and Outdoors » Sports and Fitness » Baseball » General

Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig Used Hardcover
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$9.95 In Stock
Product details 432 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9780743245913 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Jonathan Eig's portrait of Lou Gehrig is as elegant, understated, and powerful as the Iron Man himself."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
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