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This Day in Yankees History: Lou Gehrig’s final game

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On this day in history, the Iron Horse played in an exhibition in what would be his final ever Yankees game.

Lou Gehrig Leans Against Wall

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. With the start of the 2020 season delayed for the foreseeable future, the Pinstripe Alley team decided to take a look back through history. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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113 Years Ago

The then New York Highlanders had a bad day, losing 16-4 to the Tigers. However, a closer examination of the box score shows why this game is notable. Eight different Highlanders players combined to make a total of 10 errors (TEN) in the game. The list of players that contributed to that mess includes (deep breath): Bill Hogg, George Moriarty, Jimmy Williams, Wid Conroy, Frank LaPorte, Al Orth, Hal Chase, and Kid Elberfeld, who made three. The only three Yankees who appeared in the field and didn’t make an error were Willie Keeler, Danny Hoffman, and Red Kleinow. Errors were more prevalent back then than they are today (the 1907 Highlanders made 336 compared to 102 by the 2019 Yankees, the 1907 MLB leader Ed Holly made 64 opposed to 26 by Tim Anderson last year), but ten in one game is truly crazy.

81 Years Ago

On this day in 1939, Lou Gehrig played his final ever game in a Yankees uniform. He hadn’t played a major league game since April 30th after taking himself out of the lineup and ending his streak. Gehrig had struggled badly to start the 1939 season, which came on the heels of a down (for his standards) 1938.

The Iron Horse kept himself out of the lineup but remained with the team to fulfill his duties as captain. Then on June 12th, he put back on the uniform as the Yankees stopped in Kansas City to play an exhibition game against one of their farm teams. Despite being in pain, Gehrig played a couple innings at first base and grounded out during the game.

The very next day, he went up to Minnesota for an appointment at the Mayo Clinic to find out what was going on and what caused his sudden drop off. The answer would be ALS.

8 Years Ago

Speaking of Gehrig, he was a part of another historic moment on this day. Seventy-three years after that game in Kansas City, Alex Rodriguez hit his 23rd career grand slam, tying the all-time MLB record set by the Yankee legend. Not only was it a historic moment, but it also helped the Yankees to a comeback win over the Braves. They were trailing 4-0 and down to their last five outs when Rodriguez tied the game with the slam in the eighth. Nick Swisher gave them the lead with a two-run shot a few batters later, as the Yankees eventually won 6-4.

Rodriguez’s record-setting 24th grand slam came in September 2013, and he would finish his career with 25.

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Today is the 46th birthday of 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui!

Other that Ichiro Suzuki, not many Japanese hitters had come over and had success when Matsui made his high profile move to the Yankees in December 2002. The three-time MVP and nine-time All-Star in NPB made a pretty quick impact, hitting a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium.

“Godzilla” went on to have a really good career in pinstripes, making two All-Star teams. However, his crowning achievement in New York was the ‘09 World Series. He hit the go-ahead home run in the crucial game two win, and then drove in six runs as the Yankees clinched the title in game six. That along with his .615/.643/1.385 stat line saw him named series MVP. He left after that season and spent three years with the Angels, Athletics and Rays before retiring in 2012.

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We thank Baseball-Reference, MLB.com, and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.