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David A. Schwinghammer

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Books by David A. Schwinghammer
Luckiest Man (book review)
By David A. Schwinghammer
Last edited: Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Posted: Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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David A. Schwinghammer

• The God Particle
• Fire Lover, a True Story, book review
• Harper Lee (book review)
• Missoula, book review
• Another Shakespeare Doubter, book review
• Flights of Passage, book review
• Baghad Without a Map, book review
           >> View all 154
Psychological analysis of Lou Gehrig.

You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate LUCKIEST MAN. Certainly there's enough diamond action to satisfy the sport fan, but Eig's objective seems to be more of a psychological analysis of the great Yankee clean-up hitter (Ruth hit third).

Eig goes into great depth about Gehrig's relationship with his mother. Apparently no woman was good enough for her son. Gehrig was thirty before he finally took a wife and that seemed to be an act of desperation as he sent Eleanor a diamond necklace before they actually went out on a date.

For me the best part of the book was when Gehrig found out he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Talk about grace under fire. Gehrig established a relationship with the doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reminiscent of hero worship. He collected bats and balls and other baseball paraphernalia and sent them to the Rochester youth. He signed autographs as well as soliciting signatures from his teammates.

Probably the saddest episode was Eig description of Gehrig's final eight days playing for the Yankees, during which time he repeatedly fell down, dropped throws, and managed only four hits. His manager, Joe McCarthy, refused to take him out. Gehrig finally removed himself from the lineup.

The last third of the book deals with Gehrig's life after baseball. Eig recounts the entire farewell speech at Yankee stadium, something he had to piece together since the audience, including the sports writers, were so caught up in the speech that they only managed to copy parts of it.

Eig then describes how Eleanor and the Mayo Clinic doctors handled Gehrig's treatment. Eleanor insisted they not tell him he was going to die. He underwent various treatments, including an immersion of vitamin E. Almost until the last he thought he had a 50/50 chance. He even took a job as a parole officer working for Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.

Eig leans over backwards to avoid hagiography. He includes an anecdote from Rocky Graziano, who spent some time in the Tombs as a youth. Apparently Gehrig was so condescending that the Rock wanted to kill him. Eig also furnishes numerous examples of how tight Gehrig was with the penny and how submissive he was around authority figures. For instance, he never would have given his famous speech, if Joe McCarthy hadn't insisted.

One of the greatest baseball movies ever made, The Pride of the Yankees, which garnered nine academy award nominations, was made about Gehrig. If you haven't seen this movie, rent it. Gary Cooper has Gehrig down pat. But see it in conjunction with reading Eig's book. The biography includes recently discovered letters Gehrig sent to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic as well as other inside information.

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