Will Yankees Greg Bird be more Moose Skowron or Nick Johnson?

Greg Bird (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Greg Bird (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
8 of 9
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

The Iron Horse

With Lou Gehrig, we come to the dividing line between opinion, and fact. And I know the difference.

I was raised in the last outpost of the old west by a father both gambler and outlaw. Their fates were intertwined, the old west’s and that of my dad, and they died together— painfully—coiled around each other like two poisonous snakes, killing each other slowly with every venomous bite.

And it was he who taught me to play poker. And the first thing he taught me is that god protects fools, philosophers, and honky-tonk heroes, like him. Why? Because no matter how stupid or drunk a player is, or what he thinks of the numbers in front of him, when everyone lays their cards on the table, those black and reds will speak for themselves.

Lou Gehrig’s numbers are the same as all those pot-winning hands held by all those lovable losers: They speak for themselves. That’s why I had time to share that story. Gehrig’s numbers don’t need explaining, defending, or using intangibles. They just need to be seen, although that might not make them believable.

It Took Him a Lifetime

The Iron Horse played his entire career with the Yankees, 17 years. Like Donnie Baseball, that means that every hit, home run, and RBI was produced in pinstripes.

His lifetime average is .340/.447/.632. Let that sink in.

And that served to produce all of this: 1,995 RBI’s; 2, 721 Hits; 493 Home Runs; 1,508 walks and only 790 SO; and, 5,060 total bases. And he did all of that in 9,663 Plate Appearances.

When you can turn over those cards, you tend to win the hands. Lou won 2 MVP’s, finished in second two more times, and was eight times, all-together, in the top five. That means that for half of his career, he was thought of as one of the five best players in the game.

To be on the Mount Rushmore of Yankees legends, however, you have to do more than win championships, and more than produce in the playoffs. You have to raise your game, play better than you did during the regular season, and be the best player on the field. Dimaggio did it; so did Jeter.

But no one not named Babe Ruth did it as well as Lou Gehrig. The Yankees played in seven World Series during Lou’s tenure, winning six. And Lou’s career postseason numbers show why the Yankees dynasty began once Gehrig arrived: .361/.483/.731.

In those 34 games, the man of iron belted ten home runs and collected 35 RBI’s. His best showing was the 1928 World Series when the Yanks swept the St. Louis Cardinals; Gehrig hit .545/.706/1.727. He swatted four home runs and nabbed nine RBI’s in eleven at-bats.

Yes, I’m sure it was a sweep.