Journalist Jonathan Eig traces the life of Lou Gehrig, one of the finest first basemen that major league baseball has ever known. Gehrig played as a tremendously reliable and powerful hitter for 17 seasons with the New York Yankees, the only team for which he played, many of them with Babe Ruth; he starred in 7 World Series games, playing on 6 championship teams. Gehrig's consecutive game streak of 2130 games, part of the reason for his nickname Iron Horse, was only broken recently, in 1995, by Cal Ripken, Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles.

Born June 19, 1903, Gehrig was only 35 years old when he developed the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease of vicious and progressive muscle wasting. He died June 2, 1941, quietly, at home. A relatively unknown disease at the time, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, soon became known as "Lou Gehrig's disease."


Eig, not a sportswriter by trade, writes with lucidity and grace as he follows Gehrig from his childhood in New York, to a championship high school baseball team, to his career with the Yankees and adult life, including his troubled relationship with Babe Ruth and his almost pathologic shyness, especially around women, to his bout with ALS.

The author is meticulous and colorful in his attention to Gehrig's baseball career and has done a great deal of original research with Gehrig's letters, especially those concerning his time spent with physicians at the Mayo Clinic, some of whom thought histamine injections would help Gehrig, and with Dr. Israel Wechsler, in Manhattan, who believed he could cure Gehrig with Vitamin E. There was then, as there is now, no definitive etiology or cure.

This book does not devote much attention to the pathophysiology of ALS, for which one should turn to His Brother's Keeper: A Story from the Edge of Medicine, by Jonathan Weiner (see this database), which also makes for an interesting comparison between two quite different patients in different decades of the 19th century.


Jonathan Eig is a senior special writer for The Wall Street Journal and has written for Esquire, The New Republic, and Chicago magazines.


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



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