The ultimate symbol of The Iron Horse's Triple Crown season!1934 The Sporting News American League Most Valuable Player Trophy Presented to Lou Gehrig. He may have spent the bulk of his baseball career in the shadow of the sport's most celebrated figure, but after the two million fan ballots were calculated to determine the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999, it was Lou Gehrig who took top honors, claiming 1,207,992 votes to Babe Ruth's second-place 1,158,044. While the Babe's career stats may be slightly more garish, and his public persona undoubtedly so, Gehrig's electoral victory here should be considered neither unexpected nor unmerited. As baseball is the most thoroughly American sport, so should the calculus for baseball greatness be informed in part by those traits that represent the best of our national character: bravery, reliability and quiet strength. And no ballplayer in history held these attributes in greater supply than Lou Gehrig.
From June 1, 1925 through May 2, 1939, the stout son of German immigrants unfailingly answered the Yankee bell, through broken bones and concussions, all manner of strains and sprains, surrendering the reins to his fabled streak only for the greater good of the team as his namesake illness tightened its grip. It has recently been postulated that Gehrig's resilience may have been his undoing, and that rather than ALS, it was insufficient rest after multiple brain traumas that precipitated his decline and death. And so self-sacrifice can be added to the long list of the Hall of Fame first baseman's noble virtues.
Gehrig's character and brilliance, both essential in the New York Yankees' elevation to the pinnacle of baseball's hierarchy, have properly fueled intense demand for mementos of his career, while his modesty and untimely passing have served to thwart supply. Of residents in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, only the autograph of manager Miller Huggins, likewise felled by sudden illness, is a greater challenge to collectors. And despite his staggering attendance record, game used material from Gehrig's career eludes all but a small, elite brotherhood of collectors. Fewer than ten jerseys from his seventeen seasons of service are known to exist today. Trophies and awards are rarer still, and here we find a particularly significant and compelling representation thereof.
It's been called one of the most egregious MVP snubs in American sports history. While Mickey Cochrane was brilliant both behind and beside the plate during the 1934 season, and his Tigers did, in fact, earn the American League flag in large degree to those contributions, Lou Gehrig's 1934 campaign quite clearly stands as one of the most spectacular in the history of our national pastime. Batting .363 with forty-nine home runs and 166 runs batted in, the Iron Horse galloped to the American League Triple Crown as he recorded a stellar .994 fielding average at first base, all while demonstrating the unbroken consistency that was his greatest legacy. But the Baseball Writers' Association of America, considered at the time "the official" issuing body of the MVP Award, quite simply "dropped the ball," denying Gehrig his rightful due.
Thankfully, The Sporting News, which had begun its own tradition of issuing Most Valuable Player Awards in 1929, stepped in to right this wrong at the 1935 All-Star Game in Cleveland. There editor Ed Bang presented the humble Yankees captain with this award for his masterful 1934 campaign. It is widely considered the most significant Lou Gehrig trophy in private hands, with all others locked behind plexiglass at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
The beautiful creation by Dodge Trophies and Awards, who manufactured the Oscars for Hollywood between 1931 and 1984, is topped by a figural batter atop a pedestal balanced between twin Roman columns, a victory figure framed between. The plaque affixed to the black wooden base reports the significance in the most elegantly engraved text:
"Presented to Henry 'Lou' Gehrig, New York Yankees, in Recognition of Being Named The Most Valuable Player of American League in 1934 by a Committee for The Sporting News."
The trophy displays without any distractions to report, though we must mention that photography from the presentation ceremony tells us that the victory figure once held a laurel wreath in his right hand, which has since been lost. Height is approximately twenty-one inches (21"). A few minor abrasions from handling or storage are likewise innocuous. This extraordinarily significant relic is making its first appearance on the hobby auction block in a quarter century, affording what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the advanced collector.
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