Before he had the most famous headache in the history of baseball, Wally Pipp was a very productive player for a decade with New York.
The Yankees purchased the contracts of Pipp, a first baseman, and outfielder Hugh High from the Detroit Tigers in February 1915 and Pipp was immediately slotted into the starting lineup.
He was more of a free-swinger than many players of his era, leading the American League in strikeouts with 82 in 1916, a year in which he also won the home run crown with 12 long balls.
He repeated as home-run king in the AL in 1917 with nine dingers and led the circuit with 19 triples for the Yankees in 1924.
His home-run totals didn’t increase with the introduction of the live ball in 1920, but he was a solid run producer, topping the 100 RBI three times (1921, 1923-24).
But the native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, likely would have faded into oblivion had it not been for one of the recurring headaches he often got as the result of a hockey injury as a boy, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.
Dealing with a headache on June 2, 1925, manager Miller Huggins suggested to Pipp he go see the trainer and take the day off, telling Pipp, “The kid can replace you this afternoon.”
“The kid” was Lou Gehrig and it was the beginning of the end for Pipp as a Yankee.
The veteran was beaned in batting practice by rookie pitcher Charlie Caldwell in early July and was hospitalzed for two weeks with a concussion. When he returned, Gehrig was entrenched at first base and Pipp was relegated to pinch-hitting duty the rest of the season.
After several failed attempts to trade him to another American League club, Pipp’s contract was sold to the Cincinnati Reds in January 1926.
In 11 seasons with the Yankees, Pipp hit .282/.343/.414 with 80 homers, 121 triples and 833 RBI while scoring 820 runs. Pipp was part of the Yankees’ first three World Series teams from 1921-23, including the championship club of 1923.
Pipp returned to Michigan after his career and died on Jan. 11, 1965 at the age of 71.