This Day in Yankees History: Lou Gehrig Plays 2,130th Consecutive Game Before Retiring

Max Goodman

Yankees' great Lou Gehrig played in his final big-league game on this day in 1939, concluding his historic 2,130 game streak.

A 35-year-old at the time, Gehrig was slumping to start the 1939 season. Entering play on April 30, he had just four hits in 24 at-bats across seven games. 

The Iron Horse went 0-4 in a 3-2 loss that day against the Washington Senators. As his health continued to deteriorate, Gehrig wound up telling New York's skipper Joe McCarthy to keep him off the lineup card before their next game.

Here's more from Sports Illustrated's piece Thursday about Gehrig's streak coming to an end:

Gehrig's numbers had started to decline in the 1938 season, which he finished hitting .295 with 29 home runs and 114 RBIs. Although the stats were low for him, they certainly weren't terrible. Through the first eight games of the 1939 campaign, though, Gehrig had four hits in 28 at-bats and a .143 batting average. 

Yankees fans were troubled by Gehrig's start to the season, but they were about to receive even worse news that summer. Gehrig's wife Eleanor reached out to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., due to her concerns over his health. After six days of tests, doctors found Gehrig had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The Mayo Clinic's website describes ALS, which is now commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, as a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. There is still no cure for the disease.   

The Yankees announced The Iron Horse's retirement on June 21, 1939, and held Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day on July 4. In front of a sold-out crowd, Gehrig delivered his famous "Luckiest Man" speech that day at Yankee Stadium. He died on June 2, 1941, at the age of 37. 

Gehrig's streak of 2,130 consecutive games played stood for 56 years. On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. eclipsed the Iron Horse's historic mark, appearing in his 2,131st consecutive game. The Orioles shortstop played everyday until his streak came to a close at 2,632.

Gehrig's streak – as well as his iconic speech at Yankee Stadium after his retirement – were both featured in 'The Bronx Bracket,' a tournament on the Yankees' social media channels striving to name the greatest moment in franchise history.

In the tournament's final round, Gehrig's speech came 115 votes shy (out of more than 35,000 total fan votes) of upsetting New York's World Series three-peat from 1998-2000. His consecutive game streak – a No. 11 seed in the March Madness style bracket – was eliminated by Babe Ruth's called shot in 1932 during the second round.

To view the entire bracket and which moments made deep runs in the Yankees' entertaining tournament, check out Inside The Pinstripes' coverage by clicking here.

Gehrig launched 493 home runs over the course of his 17-year career – all with the New York Yankees. Only 27 players have hit more homers in baseball history. 

He won six titles with the Bombers, made seven consecutive All-Star Games to close out his career and was the recipient of two American League Most Valuable Player Awards.

New York's legendary first baseman was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939 in a special election after he had taken ill. 

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