Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jimmy's Grandfather and Lou Gehrig

There's a precedent for my acquiring this kind of book--a biography of Lou Gehrig with an inscription inside indicating how much the Yankee slugger was admired by the book's owner. See Book Shrine to a Baseball Hero.

In this case, the book's owner apparently didn't own the book all that long as it was given to his grandson.

But it's what went with the book that is the real treat in the written message--a baseball bat signed by Lou Gehrig and other Yankees!

Here's the inscription from a grandfather to his grandson:

Click on the image to enlarge it.

In these few lines penned in the upper corner inside the front cover, an old man reveals a wonderful bit of history about himself as a kid and his love of baseball, the Yankees, and, in particular, Lou Gehrig. And those larger-than-life heroes of the diamond didn't sign just any bat. They signed a bat that Grandfather Jim made himself when he was a boy.

This cherished souvenir from the boy's hero would sadly grow all the more important to him, as we know that Gehrig's career and ultimately his life were cut far too short.

At age 36, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS for short, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," as it has been more commonly known for decades. A few weeks shy of his 38th birthday, the man nicknamed the Iron Horse for his durability, succumbed to the cruel disease.

I can only guess when young Jim got his homemade bat signed. As Babe Ruth's name is not mentioned, it's quite possible the bat was signed after Ruth was gone, 1934, and before the early part of the 1938 season when Gehrig could no longer play ball.

How crushed must Jim have been to see his hero mysteriously fall so fast from his high performance standards. And how devastating it must have been to learn of his disease and slowly realize he would never play again. And then the heartbreaking, inevitable conclusion to his rapid decline--death on June 2, 1941.

That Jim would buy this book some 60 years after meeting Lou Gehrig and acquiring his signature along with some of his teammates' signatures gives testimony to the fact that he remained a lifelong fan of his childhood idol.

I can't understand how the book, with that wonderful inscription, wound up in a resale shop, knowing how much Gehrig meant to the grandfather. But there's a number reasons that could have happened.  I can only hope the bat didn't suffer the same fate!

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