June 26, 1920: Lou Gehrig homers in high school all-star game at Cubs Park
"The New York Boys have a 17-year-old boy of 190 pounds on first base who is a regular Babe Ruth. If he gets a high fast one, he’ll slam it over the right field wall at the Cubs’ Park." — James Crusinberry, Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1920.1
More than 6,600 fans assembled at Cubs Park for a contest between the top high-school teams of Chicago and New York and a championship aura prevailed. New York’s High School of Commerce had advanced to the New York City championship by defeating Flushing (Queens) High School 7-2 in the semifinals and Commercial (Brooklyn) High School in the finals, 6-5. Lane High School had taken the Chicago championship by defeating rival Englewood High School.
Prior to departing for Chicago from New York’s Grand Central Station, the 16 New York players had practiced under the watchful eye of Coach Harry Kane at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. The entourage going to Chicago included Kane, the players, and the school’s director of athletics, A.K. Aldinger.
When they arrived in Chicago, the host team, led by the school band, accompanied them on a parade through the city to their hotel. While in Chicago the boys from Commerce stayed at the Hotel Sherman. Sponsors of the event included the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and William Veeck Sr., president of the Chicago Cubs.
At Wrigley, the Lane team was led on to the field by their school’s marching band and throughout the game music was provided by Jack Bramhall’s jazz band. The partisan locals were urged on in the cheering by three of Lane’s top cheerleaders, and taking the field to perform was the famous vaudevillian jazz dancer Joe Frisco, known for, among other things, telling his audiences, “Don’t applaud, folks, just throw money.”
Commerce scored three first-inning runs off Tom Walsh to take the early lead but Lane tied things up in the third inning. Commerce regained the lead with a run in the fourth inning, and a pair of fifth-inning runs made the score 6-3. But Lane pulled to within one run with a pair of fifth-inning runs. Walsh, Lane’s star pitcher, left the game with a sore arm after five innings, and the Windy City boys were somewhat hampered as his replacement, Norris Ryrholm, generally toiled at shortstop or behind the plate. On this day, he had caught the first five innings.
Most of the game’s players were not heard of again, including New York’s battery of Jacobs and McLaughlin. Jacobs scattered 12 hits, and catcher McLaughlin, who was hurt in a collision in the sixth inning, momentarily left for a courtesy runner but returned to catch the final four innings. And then there was the Chicago shortstop with the melodic name of Salvatore Pasquinelli. Long-term baseball fame would elude him as well.
The star of the game was "Gherig"2, that 17-year-old who played first base for the Easterners. He had contributed extra-base hits in each of his squad’s final two games in New York and was highly heralded. As the ninth inning began, Commerce led 8-6, although the Midwesterners were outhitting them. "Gherig," hitless to that point with two walks in four plate appearances, drove the ball over the fence atop the right-field wall with the bases full. The ball landed on Sheffield Avenue and came to rest on a porch across the street. The grand slam ended the scoring. The article in the New York Times indicated "Gherig" had been “touted as the Babe Ruth of the high schools in New York.”3
After the game, the players from both teams were escorted to the Olympic Theater, where they saw the play Poker Ranch.
Twelve years later, the player whose grand slam broke the game open returned to Chicago for the World Series. By that point Lou Gehrig was in his ninth season with the New York Yankees and was batting behind Babe Ruth. On October 1, 1932, Gehrig hit two homers at Wrigley Field, as did Ruth as the Yankees won 7-5 to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the World Series. They completed the sweep the next day. It was the last time that Ruth and Gehrig would be together on a championship team.
(Click image to enlarge)
This article appears in "Wrigley Field: The Friendly Confines at Clark and Addison" (SABR, 2019), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. To read more stories from this book online, click here.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted:
Crusinberry, James. “New York Preps Down Lane Tech in Hitfest, 12-6, Gherig Swats Homer with the Bases Loaded,” Chicago Tribune, June 27, 1920: 2-1.
Crusinberry. “Lane Plans Noisy Welcome for New York Prep Champs,” Chicago Tribune, June 24, 1920: 15.
Box score: Chicago Tribune via Newspapers.com
1 James Crusinberry. “Englewood and Lane Meet Tuesday for Championship,” Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1920: 13.
2 Gehrig’s name was often misspelled in newspaper articles during his high school years. The proper spelling was always Gehrig.
3 “Commerce Team Wins,” New York Times, June 27, 1920: Sports 2.