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The Luckiest Man

In "Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig," Jonathan Eig is less concerned with Gehrig the indomitable ballplayer than he is with Gehrig the idiosyncratic homebody who was able to characterize himself as "the luckiest man on the face of the earth" shortly after being told that the disease that ended his baseball career would be fatal.

Through a combination of ingenious hunting and extraordinary luck, Eig acquired private correspondence between Gehrig and his doctors, and between those doctors and Gehrig's wife. These letters tell the story of a man who clung to hope so ferociously that on the day he died, he told a visitor he thought his chances were "50-50."

This is not to suggest that Eig ignores Lou Gehrig's baseball career.

The middle third of "Luckiest Man" chronicles the exploits of Gehrig the Yankee, a fellow either fortunate enough to have been able to concentrate on baseball while Babe Ruth entertained the reporters, or doomed to have played an enormous chunk of his career in the shadow of the mighty Ruth, depending on your point of view. Lou Gehrig is known for his endurance, of course, having played in two thousand one hundred thirty games, but what's equally remarkable is the consistency of his excellence. He knocked in more than one hundred and ten runs for thirteen consecutive seasons, struck out more than seventy times only thrice in seventeen years, and finished his career with a batting average of .340. Yet according to Jonathan Eig, Gehrig never was secure in his own achievement.

Idiosyncratic, indeed.

This program aired on May 6, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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