Baseball is almost back in action, with one more day remaining until we have something to talk about again besides Pokemon Go. Luckily, we have the most storied franchise in sports history at our disposal, so we can take this time to look back at one of the seemingly infinite incredible moments in Yankees history.
It was on this day back in 1934 when Yankees legend Lou Gehrig further earned his nickname, “The Iron Horse.” First, let’s look back to the day before, when Gehrig came to bat in the second game of a four game stand in Detroit.
After stroking a single, Gehrig doubled over in pain on his way to first base. He was able to drag himself safely to the bag, but could go no longer after the fourth inning found his back still in agonizing pain as he tried to take the field.
Gehrig asked to be removed from the game (a game where Babe Ruth slugged his 700th home run), barely able to move due to severe lumbago in his lower back, which made it difficult to even breathe.
After a night of heat treatment and massaging, Gehrig was still in excruciating pain on the morning of July 14th. He was barely mobile, yet determined to keep his historic streak alive, which he already held the record for.
When game time arrived and Gehrig found no relief in his ailing back, he and manager Joe McCarthy decided to slate the first baseman at the shortstop position for the game against the Tigers, batting leadoff. Gehrig was set on keeping his incredible streak going, and struggled into the batter’s box to lead off the first inning of a game that would already be declared unusual by anyone who took a quick glance at the lineup card.
Unable to take a full swing, Gehrig somehow forced a single into right field, and made the painstaking journey to first base before being pinch run for. The streak was still alive, and Gehrig had a hit to show for it.
The game itself was as bizarre as seeing Gehrig penciled in as the shortstop. After storming out to a 9-1 lead, the Yankees and starting pitcher Lefty Gomez watched their lead shrivel to 9-8 after Gehrig’s exit, and their momentum vanished. However, two insurance runs by the Yanks made it 11-8, and seemed to restore order. Instead, it only served as a prelude to further chaos.
The Tigers roared back in the bottom of the ninth, capped off by a game winning two-run single by Billy Rogell, stunning the Yankees, who watched the Tigers record ten doubles in the game. The Yankees, without their injured horse, watched their first place lead slip away in the form of a remarkable collapse.
As for Gehrig, his status for the series finale was uncertain to everyone except Gehrig himself. He was confident he would play. After going 4-4 on July 15th with three doubles, batting in his familiar cleanup spot, spectators were also convinced he was back to his normal self as well. The Yankees would go on to lose the game, but Gehrig made it clear his streak was very much alive.
The famous streak would stay intact for the remainder of the 1934 season and beyond. He wound up finishing the season with a batting average of .363, with 49 homers and 166 RBI. His string of consecutive games would stretch into 1939, before he pulled himself from the lineup, ending the streak at 2,130 games.
Coincidentally, the streak came to an end in Detroit, where it almost ended five years prior. The record stood for over 50 years until Cal Ripken, Jr. set the new mark at 2,632 consecutive games played, a streak that ended in 1998 against the Yankees.