And of course, there is the streak and the illness that ended it. Gehrig's consecutive game streak of 2,130 began as a pinch hitter in a game on June 1. 1925. It ended on May 2, 1938 when Gehrig removed himself from what would have been his 2,131st game, telling manager Joe McCarthy he was doing so "for the good of the team." The first signs of Gehrig's disease may have shown themselves in as early as 1934 when Gehrig suffered a "lumbago attack" and had to be assisted off of the field in a July 13th game. Because Gehrig sometimes described his illness as "a cold in his back," some speculate that this may have been the first sign that something was amiss with the Yankee slugger's body. Amazingly, despite this possible early onset, Gehrig was still able to capture the aforementioned Triple Crown that season.
For the next three seasons Lou Gehrig would continue to be one of the best players in the game, topping a .350 batting average in two of those three seasons, leading the league in OBP three times, slugging once, and OPS twice. Even still, Gehrig — by many accounts — was already feeling the effects of the disease that would eventually end his career. In his last great season — 1937 — Gehrig hit .351/.473/1.116, with 37 home runs, 159 RBIs, and a league leading 127 walks.
The next season though, Gehrig's decline became immediately apparent. His batting average of .295 was the first time Lou hit under .300 since 1925, his first full season in the majors. Also, his 29 home runs were the first time the future Hall of Famer missed the 30-home run plateau since he hit 27 in 1928 (although he did bat .374 with 142 RBIs that year). Even still, Gehrig posted a very good .410 OBP, a .932 OPS, and 114 RBIs. For many (in any era) this would have been a very good — probably All-Star — season. But for the man who had made a career out of regularly posting historic numbers, this stat line was an indicaton of a serious and sudden decline.
By 1939 Gehrig was rendered totally unable to play the game he loved. Participating in only eight games before benching himself, Gehrig hit .143/.273/.416 and was reportedly disturbingly feeble in the field. The 6'0", 200-pound block of granite, at only 36 years old, had mysteriously lost every ounce of the coordination, skill, and strength that had made him a legend in his own time.