Lou Gehrig, Columbia’s most eminent sports figure, died June 2, 1941. The next day, I received my bachelor’s degree from the university.
I became a Gehrig enthusiast from the day I saw him play for the first time when I was 9. In the haziness of my memory of that long-ago afternoon, Gehrig did little with his bat. In fact, I paid more attention to Babe Ruth, his Yankees teammate, mincing around the bases after a home run. Yet it was Gehrig, the shy, unassuming first baseman, whom I ultimately preferred over the Rabelaisian Ruth as a boyhood hero.
As I took the Broadway trolley up to the Columbia campus on the morning of June 3, 1941, I felt a mix of sadness over Gehrig’s death and pleasure at getting my degree. Although he retired in 1939, I didn’t know Gehrig had been wasting away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the incurable disease now named for him. He died 17 days before his 38th birthday.
Ray’s biography of Lou Gehrig is a must for any serious baseball fan.