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Future Yankee Found Fame Early With Wrigley Homer

September 05, 1995|EARL GUSTKEY

In June 1920, neither Lou Gehrig nor any of his baseball teammates at New York's High School of Commerce had ever been west of Newark, N.J.

Yet there they were, eating in a dining car and sleeping in Pullman cars, riding to Chicago to play for the New York-Chicago high school baseball championship at Wrigley Field . . . and shaking hands with a former U.S. president.

It was 17-year-old Lou Gehrig's first trip, and he was rolling to a game that would make him, for the first time, a New York headline figure.

Along the way, the future Yankee and his teammates were introduced to William Howard Taft, former president then serving as chief justice of the Supreme Court, by chance a fellow passenger.

The game, on June 27, 1920, matched Gehrig's Commerce team against Chicago's Lane Tech. A crowd of 6,600 showed up to watch a slugfest that Gehrig capped with a home run.

Commerce had an 8-6 lead in the ninth when Gehrig, whose name was spelled "Gherig" or "Gherrig" by papers in both Chicago and New York, batted with two out and the bases loaded. His homer was described this way by a Chicago Tribune writer:

"The ball sailed out high and far and cleared the right-field screen by many feet, finally landing on Sheffield Avenue, and bouncing onto a front porch across the street.

"It was a blow of which any big leaguer would have been proud and was walloped by a boy who hasn't yet started to shave."

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