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Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig Paperback – Bargain Price, March 28, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 250 customer reviews

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Lou Gehrig started his professional baseball career at a time when players began to be seen as national celebrities. Though this suited charismatic men such as Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, Gehrig avoided the spotlight and preferred to speak with his bat. Best known for playing in 2,130 consecutive games as well as his courage in battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a disease that now bears his name), the Iron Horse that emerges from this book is surprisingly naïve and insecure. He would cry in the clubhouse after disappointing performances, was painfully shy around women (much to the amusement of some of his teammates), and particularly devoted to his German-immigrant mother all his life. Even after earning the league MVP award he still feared the Yankees would let him go. Against the advice of Ruth and others, he refused to negotiate aggressively and so earned less than he deserved for many seasons. Honest, humble, and notoriously frugal, his only vices were chewing gum and the occasional cigarette. And despite becoming one of the finest first basemen of all time, Jonathan Eig shows how Gehrig never seemed to conquer his self-doubt, only to manage it better.

Jonathan Eig's Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig offers a fascinating and well-rounded portrait of Gehrig, from his dugout rituals and historic games to his relationships with his mother, wife, coaches, and teammates. His complex friendship with Ruth, who was the polar opposite to Gehrig in nearly every respect, is given particularly vivid attention. Take this revealing description of how the two men began a barnstorming tour together following their 1927 World Series victory: "Ruth tipped the call girls and sent them on their way. Gehrig kissed his mother goodbye." Eig also shares some previously unknown details regarding his consecutive games streak and how he dealt with ALS during the final years of his life. Rich in anecdotes and based on hundreds of interviews and 200 pages of recently discovered letters, the book effectively shows why the Iron Horse remains an American icon to this day. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Although his record of playing in 2,130 consecutive Major League baseball games (from 1925 to 1939) was eventually broken in 1995, Gehrig is still remembered as one of the sport's greatest figures. But Eig, a Wall Street Journal special correspondent, shows that the life of the"Iron Horse" wasn't quite as squeaky clean as Gary Cooper portrayed it to be in the 1943 film Pride of the Yankees. Still, the blemishes are strikingly minor in comparison to those of today's star athletes: the worst anyone can really say about Gehrig is that he didn't like spending money, or that sometimes he'd just barely appear in a game in order to continue his streak. This meticulous biography also tracks the Yankee first baseman's close family ties and the tensions between his German immigrant mother and his publicity-savvy wife, as well as Gehrig's friction with teammate Babe Ruth. There's a certain monotony to the seasons during Gehrig's peak years, but Eig manages to find lively anecdotes. Moreover, the final chapters, in which Gehrig slowly dies from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, present his story's medical aspects with powerful sensitivity. Holding its own against recent high-profile baseball bios (e.g., Richard Ben Cramer's portrait of Joe DiMaggio), Eig's book reminds readers that Gehrig's accomplishments are inseparable from the dignity of his character. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743268938
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743268936
  • ASIN: B000W3W8PA
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,566,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig VINE VOICE on March 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for an exhaustive biography of Gehrig, one of the best to ever grace a diamond, look no further. Eig has written a wonderful book that gives great insight into not only Gehrig the player, but also Gehrig the man.

It's obvious from the discussion of his upbringing that Gehrig was not a "typical" Yankee star, one who would enjoy the bright lights and fame. As a child, and continuing into his adult life, he was a shy, modest person who wanted only to work hard and do his best. His relationship, or lack thereof, with fellow superstar Babe Ruth, is given a lot of coverage, and is one of the more interesting aspects of the book. Given Gehrig's background and social anxieties, it's not really surprising that he and Ruth (along with other teammates) never seemed to mesh.

While the coverage given to his seasons with the Yankees is comprehensive, it's the anecdotes and off-the-field stuff that really add to the existing knowledge we have of Gehrig. And even when we know towards the end of the book exactly what's going to happen, Eig still manages to present the onset of his illness and eventual death dramatically, without simply playing on emotions. I was surprised to learn that his ALS had begun its onset in '38, and not a year later when he was forced to call it quits.

Eig presents Gehrig well, without romanticizing him or turning his book into a hagiography. While I think any baseball fan will love this book, I don't think being a fan of the sport is a prerequisite to enjoyment. This is a great biography of a genuinely good man, one who always seemed unsure about being in the spotlight. Highly recommended.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have read other previous biographies on Lou Gehrig such as Ray Robinson's effort entitled "Iron Horse" and Frank Graham's book entitled "Lou Gehrig: A Quiet Hero". Both books are well done, but Jonathan Eig's book is the most in-depth effort on Gehrig to date. Gehrig had an over-bearing and protective mother and a passive insecure father. While Lou had great admiration and respect for his mother, her influence probably contributed to Lou's insecurities regarding himself. Lou's mother viewed his wife as a threat to her control over her son, and both mother and mother-in-law were in constant conflict over the son and husband. Even after Lou's death the wrangling continued over Lou's estate. The author provides ample coverage of Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day on July 4, 1939, when Gehrig delivered his Gettysburg Address speech at Yankee Stadium between games of a doubleheader between the Yankees and the Washington Senators. Significant coverage is also provided on ALS, the disease that now carries Gehrig's name. Gehrig always expressed his appreciation for the care he received at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and exchanged letters with physicians in charge of his care. He always looked for miniscule signs that may indicate the disease wasn't getting any worse, but by the spring of 1941 he knew it was just a matter of time before the inevitable took place. This book is also a rare treat in that it isn't laced with profanity. If you have a young reader around ten years old who is reading at an advanced level, feel free to give them this book as a gift. It will be one that will be appreciated for years to come.
P.S.--I don't know why Amazon lists this as from an "Audio CD." This review is from the hardcover book.
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Format: Hardcover
In his brief 37 years, Lou Gehrig couldn't catch a break. Incredibly shy, he never cashed in on his movie-star looks. He adored his mother, but she sabotaged the few relationships he had enough courage to persue. When he finally did marry, the two women in his life quarreled endlessly, a rift that would remain even after his death. As a ball player, Gehrig was too insecure to seek the salary he deserved, always fearing that his next paycheck might be his last. When he became a star, his personality and accomplishments were overshadowed by the larger-than-life presence of Babe Ruth, and after the Babe retired, it was a young Joe DiMaggio who caught the public's fancy. Struck by a fast-moving fatal illness, the Yankees held Lou Gehrig Day on July 4, 1939, but not a single media outlet recorded the entirely of his famous farewell speech. And when death came, two years later, even the birth date on his tombstone was wrong.

As a fellow journalist who routinely deals with rigorous fact-checking, I congratulate Jonathan Eig on one of the most meticulously researched -- and thoroughly sourced -- sports biographies I've come across. I am on my third reading, and each time I soak up something new from every chapter. "Luckiest Man" is a smooth-flowing, well-organized masterpiece that unearths precious new details about this admired, enigmatic, and intensely private figure.

Unlike the gushing Gehrig biographies of yesteryear, Eig goes beyond baseball, the statistics, and myth of the the Iron Horse, or Biscuit Pants as his teammates sometimes called him, to reveal an individual of tremendous character, but entirely human. Gehrig was a misfit. In an era when ballplayers were swashbuckling tough guys, "Columbia Lou" was a sensitive college boy.
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