He was born on Manhattan island in New York, New York, the son of German immigrants. He attended Columbia University, where he was a member of a fraternity, Phi Delta Theta. However, he could not play intercollegiate baseball since he played baseball for a summer professional league during his freshman year.
Lou Gehrig was a powerful first baseman, a fine fielder, and loyal teammate. If he was not quite the player his teammate Babe Ruth was, he was a feared sidekick, and a more reliable presence in the lineup.
Gehrig played for the New York Yankees, first base, from 1923-1939. In his career he hit 493 home runs and played in 2,130 consecutive games, an endurance record that stood until 1996 when Cal Ripken, Jr broke it.
Gehrig's streak began when he pinch-hit for Pee-Wee Wanninger on June 1, 1925. The next day, Wally Pipp, the regular first baseman, had a headache, so Gehrig started at first base. He would remain there until 1939.
Gehrig won the American League's Most Valuable Player Award twice. The first time, in 1927, was considered controversial: it was the year Ruth hit 60 home runs, but Ruth was not eligible for the award under the rules of the time, having won it before (in 1923). Gehrig did, however, lead the AL with 175 runs batted in. Gehrig won the award again in 1936, with one of his finest offensive seasons.
In 1939, Gehrig retired from the sport on learning he had Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a dreadful degenerative disease so rare that it is sometimes called "Lou Gehrig's Disease".
His speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4 of that year (for "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day") is one of the most famous in sports history. Gehrig refused the crowd's sympathy, and declared that he considered himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Babe Ruth, with whom Gehrig had not spoken for six years, hugged him and Gehrig became the first baseball player to have his shirt number retired by a team.
Gehrig died in Riverdale, New York. This was the first of a long line of premature deaths for the most powerful Yankee sluggers. Ruth himself died young of cancer, as did Roger Maris. Mickey Mantle also died before his time.