Many of you have heard that Gehrig got his big break only because Wally Pipp, the Yankees’ regular first baseman since 1915, sat out a game with a headache. Well…. that is not exactly what happened.
In fact, Wally Pipp’s account of what happened was slightly different. Wally claims he was hit in the head by Charlie Caldwell during batting practice, lost consciousness and rushed to the hospital. Wally insists he was in the hospital for two weeks and by then it was too late. Lou was on fire and had already established himself as the new, ten years younger Yankee first baseman.
As it turns out, neither account of the Wally Pipp/Lou Gehrig story was true.
Nearing the middle of the 1925 season, the Yankees were under .500 and falling drastically in the standings. So, Manager Miller Huggins decided to shake up his line-up and replace some of his slumping veterans with younger players.
You guessed it, Wally Pipp was one of them!
Snopes.com stated, “In the case of Wally Pipp there was no inopportune headache, no “delightful and romantic story” — just a case of a slumping player who lost his job to an up-and-comer and never got it back.” As what often happens, we avoid reality and feel better transferring blame!
Regardless of which story you want to believe, there was a definite drop in his production. The previous year Wally batted .295, had 19 Triples and was 14th in the MVP voting. In 1925 he had dropped considerably.
|At Bats||Hits||Triples||Batting Average|
In fact the fans wanted to justify the fall of the Yankee Dynasty and the lack of production by Wally Pipp to Babe Ruth’s 1925 illness and his inability to play.
I agree the Bambino was the Babe, and his illness had to affect the Yankees, but, I think there is a bigger lesson here.
- Baseball is an individual sport in a team concept
- Baseball is a mental game not an emotional one
Lou Gehrig was given the opportunity and took advantage. Wally Pipp was traded to Cincinnati. Whatever the reason Wally did return to his talented ways, but I believe the Roman philosopher Seneca said it best;
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Even though the Iron Horse became part of a legend that mixed fact with fiction, variations of the story was repeated over and over to many it became real. Truth be told, Lou Gehrig was lucky inasmuch as he was prepared and when the opportunity presented itself. He took it and never looked back!
Sadly, the Iron Horse benched himself after 2,130 games on May 2, 1939 for poor play. Shortly thereafter he found out why and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) now known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” He died two years later.
Check out his farewell speech.
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