Lou Gehrig’s Lost Memoir: “Walsh had signed other stars to ‘author’ newspaper columns that were written by a stable of ghostwriters.”

From a Wall Street Journal Bookshelf column by Roger Lowenstein about the book Lou Gehrig: The Lost Memoir by Alan D. Gaff:

“Lou Gehrig: The Lost Memoir” doesn’t substantially alter our image of Gehrig, but it does offer a scoop. In 1927, when the team famed for its “Murderers’ Row” lineup was reaching its potential, a pioneering sports agent named Christy Walsh signed Gehrig to tell his story.

Walsh had signed other stars, including Ruth, Walter Johnson and Ty Cobb, to “author” newspaper columns that were written by a stable of ghostwriters.” Sports fans ate them up. Walsh thought that the clean-living, modest (and penny-pinching) Gehrig would make the perfect counterpoint to the swaggering Babe.

In Gehrig’s case, Walsh arranged for 29 columns to run in the Oakland Tribune and two other papers under the headline “Following the Babe.” (Ruth hit third in the lineup, Gehrig cleanup.) Gehrig had help, but the columns told his story seemingly in his own words.

And then what Mr. Gaff calls Gehrig’s “memoir” was forgotten, “buried in the mists of time, and largely overlooked by baseball historians and Gehrig biographers.” (The excellent “Luckiest Man,” a 2005 biography of Gehrig by Jonathan Eig, doesn’t mention Gehrig’s columns.) Mr. Gaff, the author of war histories, discovered Gehrig’s columns while doing unrelated research; he fused them into a narrative and added a useful biographical essay. . . .

Gehrig was 24 when he wrote these columns. He was still in awe of Ruth, and he was overjoyed to be in the big leagues, as he was when he was feted at Yankee Stadium 12 years later, wasting away from ALS, when he affirmed his good luck at having spent his shortened career with “these grand men.”

Mr. Lowenstein is the author of “America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve.”

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