It had become a familiar feeling. A long season over. Victory in the World Series. A celebration in the locker room.
For Lou Gehrig, 1938 marked the sixth time in his career he was able to let loose on an October afternoon. The Yankees had just swept the Chicago Cubs, winning two at Wrigley Field and then two more at Yankee Stadium. Gehrig wasn’t the star of the series but he contributed. Four hits in 14 at-bats at age 35 wasn’t too bad. Now, it was time to take a bow, maybe earn a little money in the off-season and await what was likely to be another great year in 1939.
A 4×6 photo from the Associated Press captures a disheveled but jovial Yankee captain in the dressing room on October 9, 1938. His pinstriped jersey is partially unbuttoned and not surprising for the times, he’s cradling a cigarette between his fingers.
It would be the last championship to which he would contribute.
Just a few months later, his body began to noticeably fail him as he embarked what he thought would be his 15th full season. Then came the ALS diagnosis, retirement, a brief role as parole commissioner of New York City and his death at age 37 on June 2, 1941.
It’s possible the impact of the disease had begun to take hold before the World Series. Gehrig had a solid 1938 season with 29 homers and 114 RBI to go with a .295 batting average but those numbers were tame compared to what he had accomplished each season from 1927-’37.
The back of the photo bears a file stamp date of October 20, 1938, when the image was sent to the archive where it remained for decades.
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