Lou Gehrig in his first season on the Columbia University ba

Lou Gehrig: Ivy Leaguer to Big Leaguer

He came to baseball immortality by way of football and the Ivy League.

Lou Gehrig, the Yankees’ Iron Horse from 1923 to 1939, achieved baseball immortality as one of the game’s most devoted players -- his remarkable record of playing 2,130 consecutive games went unbroken for 50 years. But before he was Lou Gehrig the famous Yankee, he was a Columbia University student devoted to playing football. Here, a look back at his early days, when he traded the gridiron for the baseball diamond.

HIGH SCHOOL CHAMP, 1920 Bettmann Archive HIGH SCHOOL CHAMP, 1920 Before the Yankees, and even before the Columbia Lions, Gehrig, third from right in the middle row, helped lead his Manhattan high school to the National High School Baseball Championships. HUT HUT, 1920 Bettmann Archive HUT HUT, 1920 Though he ultimately played college baseball, it was Gehrig’s football talent that earned him a scholarship to Columbia University, where he played halfback. HIKE, 1921 Bettmann Archive HIKE, 1921 In the 1920s, there was more infrastructure set up for playing intercollegiate football than there was for baseball, so the team tended to draw the more serious athletes. GRAND SLAM, Circa 1921 Bettmann Archive GRAND SLAM, Circa 1921 But eventually, Gehrig found his way to baseball and pitched for the Columbia team. CATCH, 1923 Bettmann Archive CATCH, 1923 He received a brief suspension during his first year at Columbia for getting caught playing for a semi-professional team under an assumed name. AT BAT, 1921 Bettmann Archive AT BAT, 1921 Gehrig quickly garnered attention from professional league scouts, who flocked to Columbia’s field to see him play. YANK, 1923 Bettmann Archive YANK, 1923 It was the Yankees that got him. He left school in his junior year to join the Yankees, but not before he earned the nickname “Columbia Lou.” IRON HORSE AND THE GREAT BAMBINO, 1923 National Baseball Hall of Fame Library/MLB Photos via Getty Images IRON HORSE AND THE GREAT BAMBINO, 1923 He played for the Yankees for 17 years, overlapping with Babe Ruth for 11 of those years. COLUMBIA LOU Bettmann Archive COLUMBIA LOU Gehrig spent nearly half his life playing for the Yankees, dying at age 37 with a diagnosis of ALS, which came to be known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.



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