June 02, 1941: Gehrig's battle ends

The Iron Horse surrenders

RIVERDALE, NEW YORK | JUNE 2, 1941 - Lou Gehrig died on this date in 1941. It seemed like only yesterday that the Iron Horse first baseman for the New York Yankees began his streak. In fact, it was yesterday, 16 years earlier, that the 21-year old Gehrig was told to grab a bat and pinch hit for shortstop Paul Wanninger.

Gehrig would play in every game from that date in 1925 until 1939 when a mysterious illness forced him out of the lineup and killed him two years later. It's sadly ironic that the anniversary of Lou Gehrig's death is the day after the anniversary
of him beginning his record-breaking string of consecutive games played.

Gehrig died of a rare disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In a matter of months, this solid, rock of a man became a helpless weakling who had difficulty walking. Gehrig finally took himself out of the lineup on May 2nd, 1939. Who knows how long the streak would have been had his strength, agility and drive not been zapped by what's become known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."

At the time, and for more than a half century after, Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak was thought to be unreachable. It was broken by Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles in 1995.

The New York Times, Riverdale, NY, June 3, 1941
For more information on ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease)

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March 18th in baseball history: 1st franchise move in 50 years

Braves' move signals major shift

CansecoST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA | MARCH 18, 1953 - The Boston Braves got official permission from the other MLB owners on this date in 1953 to relocate to Milwaukee. It was the first franchise move in major league baseball since 1903 when the Baltimore Orioles moved to New York City to eventually become the Yankees. It opened the flood gates.

Expansion and relocation were in the air. As Braves owner Lou Pernini put it, "The country has changed in the last 75 years. You can't deny Los Angeles and San Francisco are major league in every respect, and so are Montreal, Baltimore and some other cities."

The next season the St. Louis Browns packed up and moved to Baltimore to become a reincarnation of the Orioles. By 1958 the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had moved to Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively. The Milwaukee Braves moved again in 1966 to Atanta, where they remain. Montreal and several other cities, such as Seattle, Anaheim and San Diego eventually got new teams. By 1972 there were 30 major league teams in two leagues, more than double the number the two leagues started with.

Pernini also thought back in 1953, "A third major league is the only answer for the future." That has not come about. In fact, in 2001 there was discussion among the owners about contraction - eliminating teams. That has not occurred either.

Contributing sources:
The Associated Press, St. Petersburg, FL, March 19, 1953, by Jack Hand
MLB team histories 

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March 16th in baseball history: Mexico shocks USA

Beat at your own game

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - In a shocker, Mexico eliminated the United States from the first World Baseball Classic on this date in 2006. With the likes of Alex Rodriquez, Johnny Damon and Vernon Wells on the U-S team Mexico beat the Americans 2-1 in Anaheim.

Roger Clemens took the loss. The winning pitcher was Culiacan, Mexico native Oliver Perez, at the time a 5-year major league veteran, but certainly no Roger Clemens.

The United States' mediocre record was 3 wins and 3 losses. The team had an impressive .337 team batting average and 3.13 ERA in the first round, but slipped in both categories in round two - .242 batting average and 4.32 ERA.

Japan ended up beating Cuba to win the 2006 Classic.

Contributing sources:

The New York Times, March 17, 2006, Anaheim, CA 
2006 World Baseball Classic results

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March 15th in baseball history - Spring training hot-spot: Indiana

Staying close to home

VARIOUS LOCATIONS | MARCH 15, 1945 - More spring training camps opened on this date in 1945 to prepare for the season, but not in the hot-spots you'd expect. The country was still in the midst of World War II and travel restrictions forced teams to train close to home.

Indiana turned out to be a popular place.

The New York Yankees - Atlantic City, New Jersey
The Cleveland Indians - LaFayette, Indiana
The Chicago White Sox - Terre Haute, Indiana
The Boston Red Sox - Pleasantville, New Jersey
The Philadelphia Athletics - Frederick, Maryland
The Detroit Tigers - Evansville, Indiana
The St. Louis Cardinals - Cairo, Illinois
The Chicago Cubs - French Lick, Indiana
The Pittsburgh Pirates - Muncie, Indiana

... Just to name a few.

Major League Baseball also drastically limited exhibition games at the urging of The United States Office of Defense Transportation. Teams could only play games with other teams if they were on a direct route to their home city. Side trips were not allowed. Some teams played very few exhibition games against other teams that spring.

Contributing sources:
Spring training locations - Baseball Guru
United Press International, March 16, 1945

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March 13 in baseball history: Aaron catches a "break"

Current star out, future star in

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA | MARCH 13, 1954 - A nasty break for a veteran opened the door for a future superstar on this date in 1954. In an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Milwaukee Braves outfielder Bobby Thomson was trying to beat a throw to second base. The former New York Giant slid awkwardly and broke his ankle in three places. Thomson would be out of the lineup until July.

Put into the lineup was a skinny, 20-year old kid from Mobile, Alabama by the name of Henry Louis Aaron. He would be a regular in the Braves outfield for the next 21 years (He played 2 more years for the Milwaukee Brewers).

With Thomson's injury many thought the Braves were out of the 1954 pennant race before the season started. Sportswriter Henry McCormick wrote, "With him [Thomson] may go the Braves' hopes of staying in the thick of the pennant fight." But the Braves stayed in the ‘54 race almost until the end. They were only four games out on September 15th, finishing 8 games out in third place, 89-65. Aaron played 122 games, hit .280 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI.

Hammerin Hank would become the all-time home run king in 1974. He finished his career with 755 HR's, wearing the crown until 2007 when Barry Bonds set a new record. Aaron remains (as of this date) the all-time RBI leader (2,297), and he was voted to 25 all-star games (they used to play two each season).

Contributing sources:
Bobby Thomson
Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Wisconsin, by Henry McCormick, March 14, 1954
1954 NL pennant race

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