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    A heartbreaking farewell gift to The Luckiest Man

    1939 Lou Gehrig Day Presentational Fishing Rod & Reel from Yankee Stadium Grounds Crew. When cracks first appeared in Gehrig's impenetrable armor late in the 1938 season, nobody could have imagined just how serious the problem would prove to be. The superstar slugger hobbled through his final spring training visit to St. Petersburg, Florida and made a valiant attempt to soldier on through the first eight games of the 1939 season before advising manager Joe McCarthy to bench him "for the good of the team."

    Further medical tests would confirm everyone's worst fears, that recovery and a return to active duty was never to be, and so an Independence Day doubleheader in the Bronx was chosen for farewell ceremonies to honor the Yankee captain. Even under these most unusual of circumstances, and at the close of a peerless career, it was clear that Gehrig felt humbled by the attention, and uneasy in the spotlight as he delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history to a heartbroken sell-out crowd, declaring himself, "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."

    Gehrig spoke graciously of the tokens of esteem he received that day, saying, "When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something." Today, several of those trophies share immortality with their owner in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but this remarkable witness to history, mentioned in that most famous of sports orations, was acquired from Eleanor Gehrig by legendary collector Barry Halper, and sold in his famous 1999 auction.

    It's a lovely custom-made rod featuring a miniature baseball bat for a knob which is affixed with an engraved plaque that reads, "To Lou Gehrig From Field & Stand Men of Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939." The original line is still on the reel, and the metal pole shows wear that may or may not be related to use, and is broken at the tip, strung together with wire.

    One of the most famous photographs taken on the field that sad Fourth of July pictures Babe Ruth wrapping his arms around his old teammate, and famed sportswriter Rud Rennie of the New York Herald-Tribune referenced that moment in his column, and the central role this special artifact played in that exchange that adds the sharpest poignancy to the piece:

    "Gehrig evoked tears and laughter with words which made the previous speeches sound rather hollow. He was wonderful. Somehow he managed to control his voice. And when he was through, [Babe] Ruth put his arm around him... People were crying in the stands when Gehrig finished. And they were ready to laugh again when Ruth put his arms around Gehrig and advised him to try out the fishing rod that had been given to him and catch all the fish in the sea."

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2021
    21st-22nd Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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