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Meet Lou Gehrig’s Wife: Eleanor Gehrig, A Lifetime Supporter

True love knows no bounds, and the story of Lou Gehrig and his wife, Eleanor, is an enduring testament to this. Read about their journey, from their early marriage days through to Lou’s tragic struggle with ALS and Eleanor’s stoic strength throughout it all. Uncover answers to widely asked questions about Lou Gehrig, and gain new insights into Lou Gehrig's wife.
by Rob Gillham | Jan 4 2024
Meet Lou Gehrig’s Wife: Eleanor Gehrig, A Lifetime Supporter
Credits: Baseball Hall of Fame

In the realm of baseball, Lou Gehrig is a legendary figure. However, his triumphant career and tragic end were not solitary endeavors. Throughout it all, Eleanor Gehrig was his unwavering support system and wife.

This article is devoted to exploring the life of Lou Gehrig’s wife and their life together.

Lou Gehrig’s Wife: Eleanor Gehrig

Eleanor Twitchell was born on March 6, 1904, and is remembered as the wife of baseball player Lou Gehrig. After his death in 1941 from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), she continued to champion his legacy and support ALS research. In 1976, she penned her autobiography, “My Luke and I.”

During the roaring twenties in Chicago, Eleanor led a lively social life and met Gehrig at a party. Despite his successful baseball career, Gehrig had to retire in 1939 due to his illness.

Eleanor, who had traveled with him during his career, cared for him until his death at 37.

Following Gehrig’s passing, Eleanor managed his estate, raising six million dollars during World War II by auctioning his memorabilia. She also worked with the American Red Cross Motor Corps and was recognized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Facing legal challenges from Gehrig’s parents and protecting his image from commercial use, Eleanor remained devoted to her husband’s legacy. She served as National Campaign Chair for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, petitioning Congress for disease research funding and a national institute on multiple sclerosis.

Eleanor passed away on her 80th birthday in 1984, having never remarried. Her contributions included $100,000 to the Rip Van Winkle Foundation, Columbia University, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Her concerns over Gehrig’s grave led to the creation of The Lou Gehrig Society. Journalist Sean Kirst highlighted her wish to have her ashes mixed with Gehrig’s in 2003.

Lou Gehrig’s ALS Diagnosis

In 1939, Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a rare terminal disorder that affects the nervous system and results in the loss of motor neurons. 

Such was Gehrig’s impact, the disease is now widely recognized as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Following his diagnosis in May, Gehrig voluntarily retired from baseball, marking the end of an exceptional career. 

Following his retirement, ‘Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day’ was held on July 4, 1939, in his honor. It was during this tribute event that Gehrig delivered his iconic speech.

He courageously declared himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” demonstrating his immense gratitude and unwavering positivity despite his diagnosis. This poignant moment was immortalized in the 1942 film about his life, ‘The Pride of Yankees‘.

Life After Lou: Eleanor’s Journey

After Gehrig’s death in 1941 from the illness, Eleanor managed his estate and raised $6 Million through memorabilia auctions during WWII. She registered with the American Red Cross Motor Corps and was commended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

She faced legal battles with Gehrig’s parents over his life insurance policy, which were settled outside court. Eleanor also blocked an alcohol brand from using Gehrig’s image in ads. 

Despite these controversies, Eleanor continued making a difference. She served as a National Campaign Chair for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and lobbied for funding and a national research institute for multiple sclerosis.

Eleanor passed away on her 80th birthday and left significant donations to causes, including the creation of The Lou Gehrig Society and the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig ALS Center. Her memorabilia is now in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Even in death, Eleanor’s wish was to have her ashes mixed with Gehrig’s to protect his grave from vandalism. Her story is inseparable from Lou Gehrig and the disease that bears his name.

Legacy: The Inheritance of Lou Gehrig

Upon Lou Gehrig’s untimely passing, a sizeable estate of approximately $3 million was left to Eleanor. She honourably used much of it to support ALS research and commemorate her husband’s legacy. 

Eleanor Gehrig’s story is interlaced with that of her legendary husband, and one cannot remember Lou without acknowledging Eleanor’s unfaltering support and dedication to his legacy. For baseballs fans looking to further their reading check out the book Moneyball on Blinkist.

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