There are plenty of photographs of Lou Gehrig, mostly depicting him as he wielded his potent bat during his Hall of Fame career with the New York Yankees.
But photos of Gehrig as a minor leaguer are rare.
One such image of the young Iron Horse posing with other members of the Hartford Senators of the Class A Eastern League is part of Heritage Auctions’ Icons Photography Auction. Bidding opened Thursday.
The 8.5-inch by 13-inch photograph has a notation that labels it as the Hartford Senators, “Champions Eastern League 1922.”
Gehrig, who was 19 in 1922, played for Hartford in 1921 under two assumed names — “Lefty Gehrig” and “Lou Lewis,” according to his player biography on the SABR website. Gehrig also allegedly played under the pseudonyms of “Lou Long” and “Lew Lewis,” according to some sources.
He played 12 games for Hartford in 1921, batting .261, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He is not listed on the 1922 squad, real name or otherwise, according to the website.
In fact, newspaper accounts at the time note that New Haven, which had a 100-51 record, and not Hartford, won the Eastern League title in 1922. According to a New York Times article dated Sept. 16, 1922, the New Haven Indians clinched the EL title after a tie with the Waterbury Brasscos, mathematically eliminating that team.
Hartford had a 73-76 record in 1922 and finished sixth in the league; however, the Senators did win the 1923 championship with a 98-55 mark.
So while the notation is there on the photograph, it is obviously the wrong year.
There is, however, no mistaking the large presence of Gehrig sitting front and center in the photograph.
Gehrig’s coach at Columbia University, Andy Coakley, told Gehrig he would lose his collegiate eligibility if he continued to play at Hartford. Gehrig would miss the 1922 season with Columbia over eligibility issues but would star for the university in 1923. After that, Gehrig returned to the pros with Hartford under his real name.
In 1923, Gehrig batted .304 with 24 homers for the Senators. He wound bounce between Hartford and New York, making his debut with the Yankees on June 15, 2023 — four days before his 20th birthday.
He appeared in seven games for the Yankees before he was shipped back to Hartford in July. He returned to the parent club in September. Gehrig would appear in 134 games for the Senators in 1924, batting .369 and hitting 37 home runs.
He returned to the Yankees for good on Aug. 31, 1924.
A week before he was promoted to the majors, The Hartford Courant ran a feature on Gehrig. While dutifully noting his athletic achievements, the newspaper also noted that the young slugger liked music “and tried to worm his way into the Senatorial quartet led by (outfielder/first baseman) Harry Hesse.”
“He was disqualified after a trial lasting six seconds,” the newspaper noted.
The photo up for the Heritage Auction has an ink notation under Gehrig’s name, identifying him. The picture was partially affixed to card stock backing, but Heritage said PSA/DNA authenticators were able to view the back and confirm that the photo had Type 1 status.
There is minor chipping around the edges of the photograph.
“Unquestionably one of the finest of the handful of pre-Yankees photos of Gehrig that exists,” Heritage notes in its auction listing.
The auction is set to close Oct. 12.