Likely still in the dark about the awful fate that was to come, the newspapers were not kind to Lou Gehrig as the 1939 World Series approached.
“Rusted and retired” wrote one Associated Press scribe in a reference to Gehrig, extolling the defensive prowess of Babe Dahlgren, who had taken Gehrig’s place after the Iron Horse’s streak came to an end with his ALS diagnosis. Everything about Gehrig’s illness seemed to be minimalized. The focus was on the present, not the three straight World Series titles Gehrig had delivered from 1936-1938.
To his teammates and coaches, though, Gehrig remained a valued part of the team that would capture a fourth straight pennant. He was named a “non-playing captain” for the ’39 World Series, which opened up on October 6–just three months after he had retired and given his famous “luckiest man” speech at Yankee Stadium. An original Acme Newspictures photo of Gehrig, dated to the days leading up to the Series, is the RMY Auctions Photo of the Day.
The 4 3/4″ x 6 3/4″ image includes the caption, still attached to the back. The photo, which was made available to newspapers who used the service, is dated 9-27-39 and also carries a file stamp date from October 19. It’s one of the last images of Gehrig in uniform. It would be used to produce his 1948 R246 Blue Tint card.
While the photo was dated to a time when the regular season was wrapping up, the Yankees were looking forward to the Series, having built a 17-game lead by late September. Gehrig’s star had been ceded to Joe DiMaggio and the young outfielder didn’t disappoint in the World Series. He combined with veteran Bill Dickey to drive in eight of the Yanks’ 20 runs in the four-game sweep of Cincinnati.
The photo is one of more than 500 in RMY’s January Collectors Auction, which runs through Saturday night.