What I’m Reading

Yes, Kat, I do read.  I prefer non-fiction, especially biographies, which would be another interesting topic in and of itself.  I’ve noticed that the bloggers I know who write in a very matter of fact, almost dry way, love to read fiction.  And those of us with a flair for the dramatic seem to prefer non-fiction.  Maybe reading fills a deep need, and fills gaps we don’t even know are there?  I don’t know, I’m just thinking.

Anyway, I not only love biographies, I especially love baseball biographies.  I’ve eaten up books about Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson.  I had never before read a book about any of the much-hated Yankees, until now.  My wife gave me Luckiest Man , The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig as a gift, and it has been fascinating. 

I have learned quite a bit from this book, and not only just about Gehrig.  For instance, I had no idea that there was a real estate bust in Florida in the mid to late 1920’s.  The situation almost totally mirrors our current nationwide real estate slowdown.  I had no idea, but a lot of ballplayers lost a lot of money in that real estate crash, long before others lost even more in the stock market crash of 1929 (Hank Greenberg lost a fortune).

I learned that Gehrig had an audition to take over for Johnny Weismuller in the role of Tarzan.  He took several photos in a Tarzan suit, and upon seeing them, Edgar Rice Burroughs had this to say, “Having seen several pictures of you as Tarzan and paid about $50 for newspaper clippings on the subject, I want to congratulate you on being a swell first baseman.”  (Gehrig did end up in a supporting role in Rawhide). 

I’ve learned that Gehrig and Babe Ruth had a horrible falling out, and although the facts are unclear, it involved a cruise, and Ruth partying with Gehrig’s very drunk wife.  The whole thing was probably a misunderstanding, but the rift became large, and then later the two men said things about each other that no doubt caused more anger.  I hate how these things happen.

Gehrig’s parents were most likely illegal aliens.  No record can be found of their emigration.

Gehrig was a mama’s boy, a cheapskate, and a horrible interview.  I love how this book doesn’t gloss over any of those things, but the subject still comes off as sympathetic.  In fact, his work ethic (and pride in his work ethic) reminds me very much of the men in my family.  And, of course, having a loved one with a neuromuscular disease makes me even more interested in a man so great they still call the disease that killed him “Lou Gehrig’s disease”.

He lived in the shadow of Babe Ruth, then Joe Dimaggio, and never complained about it – even though his numbers were arguably better than each of them during the years they played with Gehrig.

I am a little over halfway through (I read at bed time, and the Ambien cuts me down to a page or two a night), and I have just gotten to the season (1938) when everyone knew something wasn’t right with Gehrig, but he hadn’t yet been diagnosed.  It’s funny, instead of sadness at this point, I am amazed.  His body was failing in 1938, and early in the year, he had the lowest batting average in the league.  Yet, the human body is an incredible thing.  As muscles failed him, other muscles learned to compensate.  He finished the season with a .294 batting average and 114 RBIs.

I want you baseball fans to think about that.  Those are great numbers for a healthy man.  But Gehrig was literally dying, and his strength and skill were so great that he willed himself to play better than most pros do, ever. 

Anyway, I highly recommend Luckiest Man to any baseball fan, or student of the 20th century.  I’m a little upset that I’ve discovered a Yankee I could actually like. 🙂

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3 Responses to “What I’m Reading”

  1. sistasmiff Says:

    I’m with you…way more into non-fiction than fiction although I used to get into novels…I just don’t anymore. I’ve always loved a biography about anybody. Backstories are such fun.

    Have you ever seen Pride of the Yankees?

  2. Slartibartfast Says:

    Sista, I saw it years ago; I remember Babe Ruth playing himself in it. I’d been a fan of Gary Cooper since Seargent York.

    Of course, being a movie from the 40’s, there was a lot glossed over that I’m learning from reading the book, but that’s OK – I’m not one of those who demands too much realism from movies (even biographical ones).

  3. sistasmiff Says:

    Gary Cooper was the man. He was something else.


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