Lou Gehrig was a legendary American baseball player who was renowned for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability. Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees from 1925 to 1939, gaining the nickname "The Iron Horse." A slugging first baseman, Gehrig played with teammates like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio during the Yankee glory years of the 1920s and 1930s.

On his 36th birthday, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease, a central nervous system disorder, and was given a very short life expectancy. A week later, he announced his retirement from baseball with 493 home runs, 1,995 RBIs, 1,888 runs scored, and 23 grand slams, which remains an MLB record. A special farewell ceremony was held in Yankee Stadium to honor him, where he delivered one of the most memorable speeches of all time. He quoted himself ‘The Luckiest Man on the Face of Earth’ and expressed his gratitude for each and every person in his life who had supported him in his journey from being an ordinary person to a baseball icon. Afterward, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a special election and his number four was retired by the Yankees, making Gehrig the first professional athlete ever to receive that honor.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

A native New Yorker, Gehrig attended Columbia College from 1921 to 1923, playing both football and baseball as an undergraduate student. The Ivy League school was an easy pick for Gehrig since his mother had already been working at one of the Columbia fraternity houses as a cook and housekeeper. While this meant he was teased by the frat boys, Gehrig focused his attention on playing ball for the school. Although he arrived on a full football scholarship, he later joined the baseball team. Soon he was apprenticing for stardom in major league baseball by smashing home runs from South Field to the steps of Low Library. Notably, Gehrig also gained the friendship and advice of baseball coach Andy Coakley, a former big league pitcher, who recognized and nursed the young man's talents. At Columbia, Gehrig was also a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. By leaving the school in his junior year, Gehrig became Columbia’s most eminent dropout since Alexander Hamilton.

Years later, Columbia made the decision to honor the legacy that Gehrig left behind. Founded in 1987, the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig ALS Center at Columbia University was established to address the complex needs of patients with ALS and other motor neuron diseases. Named in honor of the famed Columbia slugger, and his wife Eleanor, the center provides comprehensive care, education, and support for patients and families living with ALS. The center also includes an integrated research program that aims to ultimately develop a cure for ALS, a disease which will forever be linked with one of Columbia’s greatest student athletes.