Maybe he was making sure his accomplishments wouldn’t be forgotten now that his baseball career was most likely over. Maybe he liked the Sporting News but wasn’t keen on baseball writers. Maybe he simply didn’t understand the difference between two similar awards. Whatever Lou Gehrig was thinking in the summer of 1939 resulted in a remarkable piece of autographed memorabilia that will be among the featured items in Heritage Auctions’ upcoming Platinum Night event.
About two weeks after Gehrig announced his deadly affliction with ALS in July of 1939, he received a letter from a young man in the Boston area named Tom Jacob. A baseball fan to his core, Jacob spent the summer writing to well-known players past and present. His goal was to honor the 100th anniversary of baseball, which was being celebrated that year. Part of the idea was to collect autographs from those who had been voted Most Valuable Player.
He created his own personally designed document with blank spaces next to the years the award had been handed out and mailed it to Gehrig along with a typed a letter explaining his project.
He asked Gehrig to sign next to the years 1927 and 1936, when the Iron Horse had won the award handed out by the Baseball Writers Association.
The request apparently stirred a hint of indignation with Gehrig, who was happy to sign for young Mr. Jacob, but added his autograph on two other lines as well: 1931 and ’34 when he won a separate award handed out by The Sporting News.
Gehrig grabbed a pencil and on the back of the letter he’d received from the young man, jotted him an explanatory note:
“Dear Tom, I don’t know where you got your data but I have trophies in my home to prove I was chosen in ’27, ’31, ’34, ’36- Best Wishes, Lou Gehrig. Check with Sporting News.”
Gehrig did probably deserve to at least one more of the awards handed out by the writers but the end result of Gehrig combining his awards from the two groups probably wasn’t what Jacob had in mind. While his project was now flawed, an amazing piece of memorabilia was created. The remainder of the autographs on the document include:
American League: 1923 Babe Ruth, 1924 Walter Johnson, 1925 Roger Peckinpaugh, 1926 George Burns, 1927 Lou Gehrig, 1928 Mickey Cochrane, 1929 Al Simmons, 1930 Joe Cronin, 1931 Lou Gehrig, 1932 Jimmie Foxx, 1933 Jimmie Foxx, 1934 Lou Gehrig, 1935 Hank Greenberg, 1936 Lou Gehrig, 1937 Charles Gehringer, 1938 Jimmie Foxx, 1939 Joe DiMaggio.
National League: 1924 Dazzy Vance, 1925 Rogers Hornsby, 1926 Bob O’Farrell, 1927 Paul Waner, 1928 Jim Bottomley, 1929 Rogers Hornsby, 1930 Bill Terry, 1931-32 Chuck Klein, 1933 Carl Hubbell, 1934 Dizzy Dean (secretarial), 1935 Arky Vaughan, 1936 Carl Hubbell, 1937 Joe Medwick (secretarial), 1938 Ernie Lombardi, 1939 Bucky Walters.
The auction also includes lots from the collection that feature individual team autograph sheets from across baseball in 1939 with many Hall of Famers and memorable players. Other lots include sheets with the inaugural class Hall of Fame rosters.
Bidding is set to close later this month at HA.com.