Most Chicago fans know that Lou Gehrig and his New York Yankees had their way with the Cubs by sweeping both the 1932 and 1938 World Series. Gehrig hit .400 with 2 homers and 5 RBIs in this four Wrigley World Series games, but he laid his claim to being a legendary slugger many years before as a high schooler from New York.
It happened on June 26, 1920 when Gehrig’s Commerce High School team traveled to Chicago to face Lane Tech, the local city high school champs, in a much-ballyhooed match-up at Wrigley Field. The New Yorkers were on top 8-6 in the 9th inning when Gehrig hit a tremendous grand slam that left Wrigley and bounded onto Sheffield Avenue.
Here’s how James Crusinberry described “Gherig” in the next day’s Chicago Tribune:
New York City’s High School of Commerce conquered the Lane Tech boys of Chicago yesterday at Cubs park in a baseball combat of thrills and heroic acts featured by a home run over the right field wall by Louis Gherig, the New York lad known as the “Babe Ruth” of high schools. The real Babe never poled one more thrilling, for the bases were filled, two were out, and it was the ninth inning. The four-bag drive settle all chances the Chicago lads had to pull the game out of the fire, the final count being 12 to 6.
Although decisively beaten, the Chicago boys put up a game and spirited fight all the way, and until the homer by young Gherig occurred in the ninth, they were always in striking distance…
….in the 9th he lost control after getting two men out and a couple of walks with errors filled the bases and made it possible for “Babe” Gherig to come up once more. The husky New Yorker had been up five times and made nary a hit. He walked twice, but hadn’t been able to get hold of the ball, and the crowd was wondering if the stories of his batting prowess were all myths. This time he made good.
Ryrholm didn’t intend to give him one in the groove, but it did, and the “Babe” landed on it. The ball sailed out high and far and cleared the right wall screen by many feet, finally landing in Sheffield Avenue and bounding to a front porch across the street. It was a blow of which any big leaguer would have been proud and was walloped by a boy who hasn’t yet started to shave.
- Bob Vorwald