Turn Back The Clock: February 19th, 1935-Lou Gehrig Re-Ups With The Yankees


We often take for granted that professional baseball players, and athletes in general, make a tremendous amount of money. For some, the thought of the very best in the game’s history having to work a second and sometimes third job during the off-season to continue to support themselves and their families, is just unimaginable. But unless your name was Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb, that is exactly the situation that most big league ballplayers found themselves in from year-to-year.

For Lou Gehrig, he was the anti-Ruth in terms of personality and swagger. Make no mistake, the Iron Horse was confident in his abilities, but he just didn’t go around beating his chest and tooting his own horn, no self-promotion the way Ruth did throughout his career. At one point, Ruth was making $125,000 per season, more than even the President of the United States. Gehrig? It’s well known that he was shy, and never felt as if he deserved a penny more than what Colonel Jacob Ruppert was willing to pay him to play. Whether he had a great season, a so-so season, or a down season–which never happened until he got sick, Gehrig was the heart of the New York Yankees order for more than 15 seasons.

During the 1934 season, Gehrig enjoyed his best all-around season of his career. He won the Triple Crown and then some, posting a .363 batting average, 49 home runs, 166 driven in, not to mention also leading the league in games played, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, and had an eye-popping OPS+ of 206! Some might argue, that Gehrig’s 1934 season was the greatest single-season performance in baseball history, bar none! So when it came time to give Gehrig his due, it was shocking to find out that he simply re-signed with the Yankees on a one-year, $30,000 deal. You read that right, $30,000.

Colonel Ruppert was a tight-fisted man, as were most owners of big league clubs of the time period. Owners such as Charles Comiskey were well known as frugal men, which as well all know, led to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Sure, the players took the money, but it was Comiskey that looked for ways to avoid paying players performance bonuses such as the ordering of players to be benched.

The following season, Ruppert might argue that Gehrig indeed did not deserve a raise of Ruthian proportions, as his numbers DIPPED down to .329, with only 30 home runs and 120 driven in. Gehrig did lead the league in runs with 125 and walks with 132. The most Gehrig would ever make as a member of the Yankees, was $39,000 in base salary, a far cry from that of his famous teammate.

It was on this day, 80 years ago, the Iron Horse once again sold himself short for an epic performance, and signed his $30,000 contract for the 1935 season.

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