Gehrig Streak Reviewed

This article was written by Ray Gonzalez

This article was published in the 1975 Baseball Research Journal


It was 50 years ago, on June 1, 1925, that Lou Gehrig began his remarkable record of playing in 2130 consecutive major league games. For the next 14 years, Yankee managers did not have to worry about who was playing first base for the New Yorkers. This does not mean that Gehrig always played the initial sack or that he played every inning of every game. Only in 1931 did Lou play every inning and one game was in the outfield.

Actually, this is a story about those players who briefly replaced Gehrig when he was sick or injured, or when he eased up in September after the Yankees had clinched their numerous pennants, or when he was ejected from a game. Yes, he was ousted at least six times in his career. To modern Gehrig fans, this may come as a surprise, because it seems inconsistent with his quiet demeanor off the field. While Gehrig did not have Babe Ruth’s bombastic and tempestuous personality on the field (for which the latter was suspended several times), Lou nevertheless was a very forceful player and was on top of every play. He was very competitive and was not averse to confronting the umpires.

In 1925 when Gehrig was breaking in, there was no indication that he was going to be an every-day performer any more than Combs, Meusel, or any other Yankee. In fact, on the first day of what later became his “streak” he was a pinch hitter. Two days later Aaron Ward pinch hit for him in the ninth, and when the game went into extra innings, Wally Pipp, heretofore the regular first-sacker, took Lou’s place in the field. This happened several times that month. On July 5, the starting Yankee first baseman was Fred Merkle, renowned for a miscue with the Cubs two decades earlier. Lou got into the game only in the last inning when the aging Merkle fainted from the heat. On July 21 Gehrig was injured by an Earl Whitehill pitch and Merkle relieved him.

Since all the variations in Gehrig’s 14-year streak at first base are noted on the accompanying list, I will cite only a few cases of particular interest.

In a late season stunt on September 28, 1930, Gehrig played the entire game in leftfield while Ruth pitched a complete game victory over the Red Sox. Harry Rice played first, and this ended Lou’s streak of 885 games at the initial sack, still a major league record.

Early the next season another switch was made, necessitated by Ruth’s leg injuries. To keep the Bambino’s big bat in the lineup, the Yanks played Ruth at first base May 4, 1931 against Washington, and Lou took the Babe’s place in right field. The Iron Horse starred at bat but made one error in the garden.

In 1934 Gehrig had several threats to his streak, but each time responded brilliantly. On May 10, he played only five innings because he was suffering from a severe cold. Of course, by that time he had already hit two homers and two doubles for seven runs batted in. On June 29 he was hit in the head by a pitched ball in an exhibition game in Norfolk. Surprisingly, he was able to start the next day in Washington where he hit three triples in 4-1/2 innings before the game was rained out.

The biggest threat to his string came on July 13, 1934, with the Yanks playing in Detroit. He had a severe case of lumbago. After singling off Tommy Bridges and rounding first base, he was immobilized with pain. He was helped from the field and Jack Saltzgaver took over at first. It looked like his streak was to end at 1426 games. The nextday Detroit fans were startled to see Gehrig’s name listed in the starting lineup at shortstop and leading off. It was a managerial maneuver for the visiting team. Lou, hardly able to stand, banged out a single as the first man up. He quickly gave way to pinch-runner Red Rolfe and retired to his hotel bed. Rolfe played the entire game at short, although Gehrig was officially credited with an appearance there. Saltzgaver played the entire contest at first.

Although still wobbly, Gehrig returned to the lineup at first base the next day, July 15, and collected four hits in four trips, including three doubles off Schoolboy Rowe. His consecutive game streak nearly came to an end in that Detroit series, but his batting average did not suffer. He went 6-for-6, en route to his only batting title and the triple crown.

Gehrig continued in the Yankee lineup for the next five years. Finally, on May 2, 1939, in another series with the Tigers in. Detroit, the Iron Horse stayed in the dugout. For the first time in 14 years, his name did not appear in the Yankee lineup — in any capacity.

In summary, during those 2130 consecutive games, Lou was relieved by a pinch hitter eight times, by a pinch runner four times, and at first base 64 times, sometimes by the same pinch hitter or runner, and sometimes when Gehrig was installed at another position. In case you wondered what Yankee player substituted the most times for Gehrig, at first base in the period 1925-39, it was Jack Saltzgaver, who played varying lengths of time in 17 games. Fortunately Jack was able to play second and third, or he wouldn’t have had much activity.

Here is the full replacement log for Gehrig in the period June 1, 1925 to May 2, 1939.

 

 

 

 

Opposing

 

Date

 

 

Team

Comment

 

 

 

 

 

June

3

1925

Wash.

Ward PH for Gehrig; Pipp played lB

June

4

1925

Wash.

Pipp played lB in 9th

June

18

1925

Det.

Paschal PH for Gehrig; Pipp played lB

June

19

1925

Chi.

E. Johnson PH for Lou; Pipp played lB

June

23

1925

Wash.

Paschal PH for Lou; Pipp played lB

July

5

1925

Wash.

Merkle started at 1B; Lou in 9th

July

15

1925*

Clev.

Merkle PH for Lou and played lB

July

17

1925

Clev.

Merkle replaced Lou at lB

July

19

1925

Det.

Merkle started at lB; Lou in 6th

July

21

1925

Det.

Lou hit by pitch; replaced by Merkle

Aug.

2

1925

Clev.

Paschal PH for Lou in 9th

May

25

1926

Bos.

Lou injured chasing fly; Ruth to lB

June

29

1926

Phil.

Ejected by Ump Hildebrand; Ruth to lB

Sep.

26

1926

StL.

Pennant clinched; Merkle to lB in 7th

July

9

1927

Det.

Durst replaced Lou at lB in 9th

Sep.

29

1927

Wash.

Peimant clinched; Durst to lB

May

31

1928

Wash.

Chased by Ump Hildebrand; Durst to lB

July

9

1928*

StL.

Chased by Ump Berry; Durst to lB

Aug.

5

1928

Chi.

Lame foot; Gazella PR in 9th

Aug.

6

1928

Chi.

Durst PR for Lou and then to lB

Sep.

29

1928

Det.

Pennant clinched; Geo. Burns to lB

Sep.

30

1928

Det.

Lou KOed by batted ball; Burns to lB

July

21

1929

Clev.

Gehrig-Huggins ejected; Durst to lB

May

7

1930

Clev.

Lou injured foot; Lazzeri to lB

Sep.

5

1930

Wash.

Replaced by Harry Rice in lost cause

Sep.

14

1930

Det.

Replaced by Harry Rice in 9th

Sep.

16

1930

StL.

Replaced by Harry Rice in 9th

Sep.

27

1930

Phil.

Replaced by Harry Rice in 9th

Sep.

28

1930

Bos.

Lou played LF, Ruth pitched; Rice lB

May

4

1931

Wash.

Lou played LF; Ruth played lB

Apr.

23

1932

Phil.

Lou replaced by Ruth at lB in mid-game

Sep.

15

1932

Clii.

Combs PH for Lou; Hoag to lB

Sep.

17

1932

StL.

Pennant clinched; Lyn Lary to lB

Sep.

18

1932

StL.

Replaced by Lary and Ed Farrell at lB

Sep.

18

1932*

StL.

Replaced again by Lary and Farrell

Sep.

23

1932

Bos.

Pennant clinched; Lary to lB

Sep.

24

1932

Bos.

Pennant clinched; Lary to lB

Sep.

25

1932

Bos.

Pennant clinched; Lary to lB

May

26

1933

Clii.

Replaced by Lary at lB in 9th

June

14

1933

Bos.

Gehrig-McCarthy ejected; Lary to lB

July

26

1933*

Bos.

Lou chased by tJmp Summers; Lary to lB

Sep.

28

1933

Wash.

Lou to get married; Ruth to lB in 4th

May

10

1934

Chi.

Lou had severe cold; Lary to lB

July

13

1934

Det.

Lumbago; replaced by Saltzgaver in 2nd

July

14

1934

Det.

Rolfe PR in 1st; Saltzgaver to lB

Sep.

20

1934

Det.

Gehrig spiked; Saltzgaver to lB

Sep.

29

1934

Wash.

Saltzgaver PR in 1st and played lB

June

8

1935

Bos.

Lou injured shoulder; Saltzgaver lB

Aug.

5

1935

Bos.

Lumbago; Hoag PH in 4th; Saltzgaver lB

Aug.

9

1935

Phil.

Ill, replaced by Saltzgaver at lB

Sep.

18

1935*

StL.

Resting; replaced by Saltzgaver at lB

Sep.

24

1935

Wash.

Resting; replaced by Saltzgaver at lB

Sep.

26

1935

Wash.

Resting; Saltzgaver took over in 5th

May

24

1936

Phil.

Replaced by Saltzgaver in 25-2 victory

Aug.

2

1936

Clev.

Replaced by Saltzgaver in 14th inning

Sep.

26

1936

Wash.

Pennant clinched; Saltzgaver to lB

Sep.

27

1936

Wash.

Pennant clinched; Saltzgaver to lB

Sep.

28

1937*

Wash.

Replaced by Saltzgaver and Heffner

Sep.

29

1937*

Phil.

Pennant clinched; Saltzgaver to lB

Sep.

30

1937*

Phil.

Pennant clinched; Saltzgaver to lB

Oct.

3

1937

Bos.

Pennant clinched;Saltzgaver to lB

May

22

1938

Clev.

Lame back; replaced by Babe Dahlgren

July

17

1938

Det.

Injured thumb in 4th; Dahlgren to lB

Sep.

19

1938

StL.

Pennant clinched; Dahlgren to lB

Sep.

29

1938*

Phil.

Pennant clinched; Dahlgren to lB

Oct.

2

1938

Bos.

Pennant clinched; Dahlgren to lB

May

2

1939

Det.

Gehrig out; Dahlgren full game at lB

 

*Second Game

 

 

 

 

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