1938 Lou Gehrig Signed New York Yankees Contract - Last Full Season!

Sold For: $70,500

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1018

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Extraordinarily significant Lou Gehrig New York Yankees contract from his final full season in 1938. The standard "Uniform Player's Contract," dated March 10, 1938, calls for Gehrig to receive $39,000 and has been signed in black fountain pen on the interior by both Gehrig and Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert. (Ruppert's name here has actually been signed by general manager Ed Barrow, who often signed for Ruppert in this manner on many contracts and other official documents.) American League President William Harridge has also signed the contract in black fountain pen on the front. Gehrig's signature, which reads "Henry L. Gehrig," has been flawlessly scripted and grades a perfect "10," as do those of both "Ruppert" and Harridge. Lou Gehrig New York Yankees contracts are extremely rare. In the past ten years, we can only recall seeing three other examples offered at public auction, none of which dated from 1938. This is, in many ways, one of the most historically important Gehrig contracts that could possibly exist as it commemorates his penultimate season as a New York Yankee. At the time this contract was signed, no one could have imagined that it was to be Gehrig's final full season in pinstripes, especially given his previous year's totals. The fabled "Iron Horse" batted .351 with 37 home runs and 159 RBI in 1937, numbers that helped power the Yankees to their second consecutive World Championship. Although Gehrig was just two months shy of his thirty-fifth birthday at the start of the 1938 campaign, few had an concerns regarding the health of a man who had just played in 1,965 consecutive games and showed no signs of being ready for retirement. Perhaps it was that optimism, the belief that Gehrig would never slow down, that made his subsequent illness all the more painful to bear. Gehrig's 1938 batting totals, on paper, looked fine: 29 home runs, 114 RBI, and a .295 batting average. They were, however, the lowest numbers Gehrig had posted in each of those categories in over a decade, and those close to him knew something was wrong. As the season progressed his strength seemed to be waning, and a gall bladder problem, which resulted in his doctors restricting his diet, seemed to make matters worse. During a golf outing that year, pitcher Wes Ferrell became concerned when he noticed that Gehrig was wearing tennis sneakers instead of golf shoes, and was sliding his feet along the ground to walk. By the end of the season it was apparent to everyone that Gehrig's skills were significantly diminished, so much so that a few reporters even had the temerity to ask manager Joe McCarthy if he were considering taking Gehrig out of the lineup. McCarthy answered them tersely by replying "It's Lou's decision." In the spring of 1939, Gehrig's condition severely worsened. His coordination was so bad that teammates privately expressed fear for his safety on the field. Still, McCarthy was adamant in letting Gehrig make the call. After struggling mightily for the first eight games of the 1939 season, Gehrig finally took himself out of the lineup on May 2nd at Detroit. He would never play in another game. Seven weeks later Gehrig received the official word on his condition from the doctors at the Mayo Clinic: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a terminal disease for which there was no cure. Gehrig passed away just two years later at the age of 38. The four-page foldover contract (8.5 x 11 inches) displays two normal horizontal folds, a small ink stain along the base of the third page, and a tiny area of discoloration on both the front and back page. Bright, clean, extraordinary in all respects. In Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).
SOLD FOR $70,500

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