Monday, June 1, 2009

The Journey of 1,000 Miles ...

... begins with a single step.

Well, that's what they say.

For Lou Gehrig, the journey that resulted in his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played began on this day in 1925.

On that day, Gehrig actually replaced the New York Yankees' shortstop, "Pee Wee" Wanninger, but the next day, he was put in at first base in place of Wally Pipp, the regular first baseman who was going through a hitting slump.

(Ironically, Gehrig died almost 16 years to the day after his streak began — on June 2, 1941.)

Today, Pipp's name is rarely mentioned — except whenever a nondescript athlete in any sport is removed from the lineup and his replacement accomplishes something noteworthy.

From that day in 1925 until Gehrig voluntarily removed himself from the lineup in 1939, he was a virtual fixture at first base. His record stood until September 1995, when Baltimore's Cal Ripken Jr. exceeded it, ultimately concluding his career with 2,632 consecutive games played.

I've never been a Yankee fan, but I would have to say that Gehrig is probably my all–time favorite baseball player — not just because of his ballplaying career (although it was certainly illustrious — besides his legendary games played streak, Gehrig had a .340 lifetime batting average, 493 home runs and nearly 2,000 RBIs) but also because of the way he carried himself after being diagnosed with the disease that took his life and today bears his name (informally).

He truly was, as the title of his movie biography suggested, the pride of the Yankees.

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