cover image LUCKIEST MAN: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

LUCKIEST MAN: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

Jonathan Eig, . . Simon & Schuster, $26 (420pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-4591-3

Although his record of playing in 2,130 consecutive Major League baseball games (from 1925 to 1939) was eventually broken in 1995, Gehrig is still remembered as one of the sport's greatest figures. But Eig, a Wall Street Journal special correspondent, shows that the life of the"Iron Horse" wasn't quite as squeaky clean as Gary Cooper portrayed it to be in the 1943 film Pride of the Yankees . Still, the blemishes are strikingly minor in comparison to those of today's star athletes: the worst anyone can really say about Gehrig is that he didn't like spending money, or that sometimes he'd just barely appear in a game in order to continue his streak. This meticulous biography also tracks the Yankee first baseman's close family ties and the tensions between his German immigrant mother and his publicity-savvy wife, as well as Gehrig's friction with teammate Babe Ruth. There's a certain monotony to the seasons during Gehrig's peak years, but Eig manages to find lively anecdotes. Moreover, the final chapters, in which Gehrig slowly dies from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, present his story's medical aspects with powerful sensitivity. Holding its own against recent high-profile baseball bios (e.g., Richard Ben Cramer's portrait of Joe DiMaggio), Eig's book reminds readers that Gehrig's accomplishments are inseparable from the dignity of his character. Photos. Agent, David Black. (Apr.)

Forecast: Blurbs from Rudy Giuliani and Roger Kahn could make this a hot spring seller.