Of all the players in baseball history, none possessed as much talent and humility as Lou Gehrig. His accomplishments on the field made him an authentic American hero, and his tragic early death made him a legend.
Gehrig's later glory came from humble beginnings. He was born on June 19, 1903 in New York City. The son of German immigrants, Gehrig was the only one of four children to survive. His mother, Christina, worked tirelessly, cooking, cleaning houses and taking in laundry to make ends meet. His father, Heinrich, often had trouble finding work and had poor health.
From Columbia to Yankee Stadium
Christina was adamant that Gehrig receive a good education, so in 1921 he went to Columbia on a football scholarship to pursue a degree in engineering. Before his first semester began, New York Giants manager John McGraw advised him to play summer professional baseball under an assumed name, Henry Lewis. "Everyone does it," McGraw explained, even though the illegal ball playing could have jeopardized Gehrig's collegiate sports career. Gehrig was discovered after playing a dozen games for Hartford in the Eastern League. As a result, he was banned from intercollegiate sports during his freshman year.
Gehrig returned to sports as a fullback at Columbia during the 1922 football season, and then pitched and played first base for the Columbia Nine in 1923. When baseball scout Paul Krichell saw the Columbia baseball team play, Gehrig's hitting skills impressed him so much that he signed Gehrig to the Yankees in 1923 with a $1,500 bonus. Gehrig left Columbia and returned to the Hartford team, where he hit .304 that season. When he was called up to the majors in September, he hit .423 in 26 at-bats.