1939 Lou Gehrig Signed Scorecard from His First Game After Returning from the Mayo Clinic
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $2,252
Presented is what might possibly be one of the most remarkable and historically significant Lou Gehrig items we have ever had the privilege of offering. On June 13, 1939, Lou Gehrig checked into the Mayo Clinic in the hopes of discovering the reason for his sudden loss of strength and coordination. One week later, on June 20th, he was given the answer: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal disease of the central nervous system for which there is no cure. While such news would have crushed the spirits of most men, Gehrig remained stoic and quickly returned to New York, where two days later, on June 22nd, he rejoined the Yankees for a game against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium. Offered here is what we believe to be a scorecard from that historic game, signed by Gehrig on the interior score page. Gehrig has beautifully scripted his name, "L Gehrig" in black fountain pen (grading "10") just above his printed name on the list of reserve players for the Yankees. The scoring page has also been signed in pencil (grading "8/9") by Earle Combs (coach), Red Rolfe, and Tommy Henrich.
Although the scorecard is undated and has not been scored, we feel it can still be reasonably attributed to the June 22nd game between the Yankees and White Sox due to a number of handwritten pencil notations on each lineup sheet. The names of each starting pitcher, Atley Donald for New York and Eddie Smith for Chicago, are written in the appropriate lineup position of each club, and notations also dutifully record the only two substitutions in the game. In examining the box score from the game (a copy of which accompanies the scorecard) Clint Brown relieved Eddie Smith in the eighth inning, and Hank Steinbacher later pinch hit for Brown in the top of the ninth. Both of those changes are recorded here. Obviously, though we have no way of knowing with certainty if those notations were made at the game, or at a later date, it seems reasonable to assume, especially in the absence of any conflicting evidence, that they are period and were made by a fan in attendance on that day. As with any undated scorecard from a historical game, there is always a certain leap of faith to be made, but we feel that the leap here is quite small. The Yankees only hosted Chicago eleven times in 1939 and the program is clearly dated 1939 on the front cover. The fact that Joe Gallagher is not on the Yankees reserve roster dates the program to sometime after June 13th (Gallagher was traded on that date to the St. Louis Browns); therefore this program cannot be from the White Sox’s first three-game series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium that season in May. Research also indicates that the June 22nd game was the only game at Yankee Stadium that year in which Atley Donald and Eddie Smith were the respective starting pitchers for each club. Since logic dictates that this scorecard can only be from one of the final eight games between the two clubs at Yankee Stadium in 1939, we believe it dates from the only one that corresponds to the handwritten notations therein: June 22nd, the date of Gehrig’s return to the club after visiting the Mayo Clinic.
A copy of an article from the June 23, 1939, New York Times accompanies the piece, which makes note that upon his return Gehrig found four huge mail bags filled with letters and telegrams from fans offering their support and that "more messages were pouring into the Stadium during the day." The article also notes that Gehrig chose not to carry out the lineup card for the game and that the Yankees were planning on honoring Gehrig with a special day. (The Yankees eventually did so on July 4th.) The most interesting information contained in the article was Gehrig's reaction to the news. The Times reports that for the early part of the season Gehrig's normal cheerfulness was gone as he worried about the cause of his physical deterioration. However, receiving the diagnosis from the Mayo Clinic seemed to remove a weight from his shoulders: "But as soon as the disastrous news of the 'polio' was disclosed this was the old Gehrig again. He seemed to lose ten years of worry overnight. The lines disappeared and Lou was gay again. The Iron Horse was cheerful and laughing again yesterday, just as he had been the day before when he accepted his lot with a ready grin. . . .Lou was smiling once again." Despite the fact that he might have been feeling well that day, the reality was that Gehrig's health was deteriorating sharply. Even the mere act of writing soon became exhausting for him and, unbeknownst to many at the time, his wife and a secretary handled nearly all of his written correspondence for the remainder of his life. For that reason, Gehrig signed items of any kind dating from the final two years of his life are virtually nonexistent. To find a scorecard signed by Gehrig during his final season, let alone one dating from his first game back from the Mayo Clinic, is remarkable. As most collectors know, nearly every 1939 New York Yankees team-signed ball in the hobby today features a Gehrig "clubhouse" signature, and his autograph on anything baseball related during this time period is exceedingly rare, making this piece all the more special. The eight-page scorecard is toned and displays a few light stains and border tears. Both the covers and all of the pages are now detached. In Good to Very Good condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,000+. SOLD FOR $2,252