The Pride of the Yankees

Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic


By Richard Sandomir

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On July 4, 1939, baseball great Lou Gehrig delivered what has been called “baseball’s Gettysburg Address” at Yankee Stadium and gave a speech that included the phrase that would become legendary. He died two years later and his fiery widow, Eleanor, wanted nothing more than to keep his memory alive. With her forceful will, she and the irascible producer Samuel Goldwyn quickly agreed to make a film based on Gehrig’s life, The Pride of the Yankees. Goldwyn didn’t understand — or care about — baseball. For him this film was the emotional story of a quiet, modest hero who married a spirited woman who was the love of his life, and, after a storied career, gave a short speech that transformed his legacy. With the world at war and soldiers dying on foreign soil, it was the kind of movie America needed.

Using original scrips, letters, memos, and other rare documents, Richard Sandomir tells the behind-the-scenes story of how a classic was born. There was the so-called Scarlett O’Hara-like search to find the actor to play Gehrig; the stunning revelations Elanor made to the scriptwriter Paul Gallico about her life with Lou; the intensive training Cooper underwent to learn how to catch, throw, and hit a baseball for the first time; and the story of two now-legendary Hollywood actors in Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright whose nuanced performances endowed the Gehrigs with upstanding dignity and cemented the baseball icon’s legend.

Sandomir writes with great insight and aplomb, painting a fascinating portrait of a bygone Hollywood era, a mourning widow with a dream, and the shadow a legend cast on one of the greatest sports films of all time.



"Of all the great and glamorous athletes, the gigantic and sometimes screwy sports figures of the Dizzy Decade who clattered across the sports stage with fuss and fume and fury, and the thunder and lightning of their compelling personalities, Lou Gehrig, the ball player, was probably the simplest, the most retiring, the most sensitive and honest."

Paul Gallico, sports columnist and first screenwriter of The Pride of the Yankees

The Pride of the Yankees—the story of a simple, sensitive, brilliant, and honest athlete—was the first great sports film. A big-budget movie in 1942, the first full year of America's involvement in World War II, it brought us Gary Cooper as Gehrig: a near-perfect marriage of a modest, heroic subject and an actor who specialized in modest, heroic characters. Pride helped define Cooper's career, but more crucially, his performance is critical to defining Gehrig's legacy as a man of integrity who somehow tells a stadium full of fans that he is "the luckiest man on the face of the earth" despite having a disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), that had just ended his career and would end his life two years later.

Seventy-five years have not diminished Pride's powerful evocation of a man struck down in his midthirties, who was loved deeply by an intimidating immigrant mother; his adoring wife, Eleanor; his teammate Bill Dickey; and his manager, Joe McCarthy. He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things in ballparks until ALS stopped him.

Pride would only hint at the seriousness of the disease, but its telling intimations of his mortality (a sudden stabbing pain in his shoulder; the loss of dexterity that rendered him unable to tie his bow tie) suggest the terrible reality.

As his life ebbed, Lou Gehrig needed friends to distract him, to cheer him up, to let him talk about anything but amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. One of the regulars was John Kieran, a friend and sports columnist for the New York Times. Kieran maintained a positive tone during visits to Lou at his house in Riverdale, in the Bronx, in mid-March 1939, ignoring the clear signs of Lou's decline—his weight loss, his faltering voice, his inability to move from his chair on his own—in his columns.

So Kieran relied on what Lou wanted to discuss. Baseball, football, and swimming. Facing Grover Cleveland Alexander in the 1928 World Series. The Yankees' plan to move second baseman Joe Gordon to first base.

"He can't miss!" Gehrig said. "Just give him a little time to practice and he'll be a whiz at first base. Maybe he'll make the Yankees forget Lou Gehrig."

Hardly. No one has forgotten him in the seventy-six years since his death.

He batted .340 over 17 seasons, with 493 home runs.

He drove in more than 170 runs three times, including 185 in 1931.

He averaged 40 doubles and 12 triples a season.

No one was calculating OPS in his day, but his career on-base and slugging percentage of 1.080 ranks third in history, behind Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

And, despite myriad broken bones and maladies, he played in 2,130 consecutive games—from the first in 1925 to his last in 1939.

He was an exemplary player, second to Ruth.

And an exemplary man, far better than Ruth.

His humanity emanates in so much that was written and said about him as he radiated joy—and somehow gratitude—while ALS was killing him.

In one of his columns, Kieran described a visit by Gehrig's doctor, Caldwell B. Esselstyn (whose son developed a heart-healthy vegan diet that President Bill Clinton followed to great success). The doctor had been a guard on the Yale football team twenty years earlier. If patient and doctor discussed anything medical, Kieran did not record it. But that is no surprise. There was no effective treatment for ALS, then or now. Lou's medical team was probably telling his wife, Eleanor, just to keep Lou comfortable. And this visit was evidence of that: The friendly family doctor, a big man who loved sports almost as much as Gehrig, was there to keep up Lou's spirits.

One of the subjects that day was swimming.

"I was telling Lou about the new breast stroke—sure, it's the 'butterfly stroke'—because it was all new to me," Esselstyn said.

Lou wanted to learn more about it from Yale swim coach Bob Kiphuth.

"Doc has told me all about him," Lou said, sounding enthused. "His teams won more than a hundred and fifty straight meets and his swimmers set hundreds of records."

Four days later, Kieran arrived again at 5204 Delafield Avenue while Lou was listening to a spring training game. Kieran spotted a first baseman's glove on a shelf—which let Lou spin a story and allude to his diminished health.

"It's the last glove I used," Gehrig said as Kieran examined it. "Jimmie Foxx gave it to me. For years I used the smallest glove of any first baseman I know. But toward the last, when I couldn't bend over so well, I was having trouble getting in the low throws and short hops. Jimmie suggested that I try a bigger glove. He gave me one. That's it." The conversation turned to a picture of Lou rounding third base in the 1928 World Series. Lou laughed, but Kieran did not understand. Nothing appeared to be funny in the shot. So Lou explained.

The picture showed him getting revenge against Cardinals right-hander Grover Cleveland Alexander, who had beaten the Yankees twice in the World Series, and saved a third game two years earlier. With Ruth and Cedric Durst on base in the first inning of Game 2 of the 1928 Fall Classic, Gehrig whacked a three-run homer.

"There was Alex, thinking he'd have us feeding out of his hand, as usual," Gehrig said. "Well, with two on in the very first inning he threw me one—the first ball—right where I liked it and I smacked it away up in the right-field bleachers. Man, oh, man! You should have heard what he called me as I ran around the bases. That's why he's looking at me in the picture. He's pouring it on—and I'm laughing. In fact, I'm still laughing."

This was Gehrig distilled to his essence—a man talking animatedly but unable to do much more than toss nuts through the window of his house at his favorite pheasant. By now, he probably knew he was dying, or that the disease was not slowing its course. But if Kieran's accounts of Lou's strong spirits were true, then some combination of faith and optimism, friendship and Eleanor's care had to be preventing him from despair. The public could not see him this way. Fans knew he was a decent man and understood that he was sick, but few could possibly know that ALS was a death sentence and that Lou would be gone very soon.

They witnessed, heard, or read about his humble farewell speech on July 4, 1939, between games of a doubleheader. It was his baseball funeral, a gathering unlike any in baseball history, with teammates, past and present, surrounding him on the infield at Yankee Stadium and 62,000 nearly filling the Coliseum-like arena unsure what to make of this suddenly thinner, weaker Iron Horse before them.

He shook and wobbled. Some wondered if he would fall in the heat.

But when he spoke, he declared he was the "luckiest man on the face of the earth" because of the blessings of his teammates, his managers, his wife, his parents, his mother-in-law, team president Edward G. Barrow, and even the New York Giants. His disease? A "bad break."

He concluded that he had "an awful lot to live for."

But not for long.

His life pivoted at this point. No longer a ballplayer, he was a victim, soon to be baseball's version of a martyr. And if he wasn't thankful for the dubious gift of an awful disease, he was grateful for what he had left.

Tragedy had made Lou Gehrig film-worthy.

And The Pride of the Yankees was born.

The movie became essential to Gehrig's afterlife.

It pushed Ruth—the megastar—to the role of a supporting player.

It starred Cooper, who specialized in playing men of quiet dignity.

And it gave perpetual life to Gehrig's "luckiest man" speech, the most important ever delivered by an athlete and one of the most memorable by an American in any profession. It deified Gehrig, not just on that hot summer's day, but for what has passed for all time. Cooper not only re-created the speech but recast it in the image of all the characters of quiet dignity that had built his reputation.

All these decades later, Cooper has been the dying Gehrig, standing in baggy, billowing pinstripes, speaking into a bank of microphones and declaring that he was not just a lucky man but "the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

For the past seventy-five years, Gehrig's legacy became inseparable from The Pride of the Yankees, which was not a baseball film but a Gary Cooper movie, much as Sergeant York, High Noon, and Meet John Doe were.

Gehrig's speech is more familiar to fans through Pride than through the few bits of surviving newsreel. His life, however fictionalized to suit the conventions of a Hollywood romance, is better known through Pride, as is his marriage to Eleanor, filtered through Cooper's and Teresa Wright's portrayals of well-matched sweethearts.

Cooper became Gehrig. Gehrig slipped into Cooper's lanky body. He animated the static, limited archive of Gehrig imagery that showed him healthy—slashing a double, flashing his dimples with that warm smile, embracing a cloche-wearing Eleanor.

Cooper disappeared into Gehrig's character as he did Sergeant Alvin C. York, Marshal Will Kane, and Long John Willoughby. But Cooper approached the Gehrig role with some trepidation. He did not know how to play baseball, his lithe build was very different from Lou's thickly muscled physique, and portraying someone so real to so many people presented a steep challenge. He met it, of course, and became Gehrig's cinematic, pinstriped doppelgänger. No actor has ever embodied a real-life athlete as Cooper did with Gehrig.

Pride's depiction of Gehrig has reinforced his place in the Yankee pantheon. Dying so young prevented him from attending events after his retirement, as nearly every great Yankee did, at Old-Timers' Days, and celebrations in their honor, since World War II. Before dying in 1948, Ruth made two storied performances at Yankee Stadium, the House that Ruth Built, one of them while croaking out a message in a voice struggling to be heard against advancing cancer, and the second, in pinstripes, his body more clearly ravaged, famously leaning on a bat.

Other Yankee stars endured as icons for decades after their playing days ended, bringing a Field of Dreams–like atmosphere at the stadium. With repeated appearances into the 1990s, some in uniform, many more in a sober business suit, Joe DiMaggio nurtured his title (announced at his insistence) as the "greatest living ballplayer." Yogi Berra became a cuddly catcher-philosopher before our eyes with each trot onto the field, building his immense late-in-life popularity by facing down owner George Steinbrenner for being cruelly fired as manager sixteen games into the 1985 season. A more recent crop of retirees like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera receive the adulation and riches that modern free agency and a powerful media confer and have decades of worship ahead with each return to the stadium.

Gehrig's death deprived fans of seeing him age into an old-timer, watching him unveil his centerfield monument or becoming an elder riding a golf cart to join other old-timers along the first base line.

But Pride perpetuates Gehrig's image as a reserved, selfless son, husband, and teammate; he is preserved in cinematic amber, demonstrating his integrity again and again. Cooper could not make us remember Gehrig's particular muscularity, but he still reminds us of his character's humility. No film has influenced an athlete's image more than Pride.

Pride also set the bar for portrayals of inspirational athletes by Hollywood studios. Characters played by Sylvester Stallone (Rocky), Robert Redford (Roy Hobbs in The Natural), Hilary Swank (Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby), and Kevin Costner (Crash Davis in Bull Durham) advanced Cooper's model for integrity, all in different ways, much as Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is the template for high-minded, courageous morality in law.

Pride's long tail of influence led to other unintended achievements: It gave early recognition to ALS, a devastating, incurable disease that was mysterious until it came for Gehrig, and became known as "Lou Gehrig's disease" by 1940.

And Cooper's delivery of the "luckiest man" speech became the measuring stick that all retiring athletes are judged by.

None have equaled him.

Its greatest achievement was to establish a formidable, continuing physical legacy for Gehrig, almost like an annuity that renews itself with each showing. The actual speech is an elusive document. Only bits of newsreel from it exist. It was not transcribed as a presidential address would be. No copies of what he read aloud appear to exist—if they ever did. But the speech exists in Pride, shorter than and different from the original, but re-created so well that it has become the de facto version. And the life of Lou and Eleanor, as depicted in Pride, is how we continue to view a couple who had only six years together before ALS came for him.

"To this day," said Yankees historian Marty Appel, "we see Pride of the Yankees as an accurate portrayal of Lou Gehrig."


A Brilliant Career, a Tragic Death

On a late March day in 1939, Tommy Henrich played first base for the Yankees in a spring training game against their Kansas City farm club. Ordinarily, Henrich's position in a meaningless exhibition would not make news. On that day in Haines City, Florida, though, Henrich's unexpected shift from outfield to first base caused a stir: He was replacing Lou Gehrig, whose lackluster, even embarrassing, spring training was worrying teammates and the Yankee brass. He had cooled off considerably in 1938. At thirty-five, he might simply have been shedding his greatness.

The thought of Gehrig nearing the end—of his career, not his life—was difficult to accept. He had been there every day since 1925. He was adored. He was heroic. Anything worse than an athlete nearing his natural end was unfathomable.

It was impossible not to notice the sharp diminution in Lou's skills. Team president Edward Barrow was concerned, saying he wished "the old guy" had played against Kansas City. Manager Joe McCarthy said he was resting Gehrig. Emotional when Lou was the subject, McCarthy was a fierce protector and unlikely to tell reporters the full truth. Lou, however, looked like a different man from the one who showed up at spring training the year before or the one who had played in 1938, when he was good (.295 batting average, 29 homers, 114 runs batted in, especially after a dreadful April) but not as routinely extraordinary as in the past.

James Kahn of the New York Sun detected that something was wrong with Lou during a long slump during the '38 season: "I have seen him hit a ball perfectly, swing on it as hard as he can, meet it squarely—and drive a soft looping fly over the infield. In other words, for some reason that I do not know, his old power isn't there. He isn't popping the ball into the air or hitting it into the dirt or striking out. He is meeting the ball, time after time, and it isn't going anywhere."

Once the spring training of '39 was in full swing, nearly every reporter admitted to seeing what Kahn had seen—and had the guts to say it in print.

"His throwing has been open to question," the New York Times's James Dawson reported, "he has not fielded balls like the old Gehrig, he has not been even a reminder of the Gehrig he was. He has committed five errors in ten games. In thirty-eight trips to the plate, he has connected for five hits, all of them singles."

Something had caused this steep decline. No one knew what; Lou did not learn the diagnosis for another three months, when he went to the Mayo Clinic.

Gayle Talbot of the Associated Press wrote that Gehrig "has slowed up dreadfully and has been brooding for a month over his inability to hit." Talbot's AP colleague Dillon Graham described him with delicacy: "not so pert."

Jimmy Wood of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle said that Gehrig's failure to end his consecutive games streak was behind his poor play. And George Kirksey, of the United Press, quoted a pitcher who said Lou had lost his batting eye: "Gehrig bends over backward and away from the plate on pitches that are right over."

Still, Lou had enough goodwill in the press corps that some were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Kieran, for one, refused to make a panicky judgment and cited three minor signs of a change in him: He was thinner (but a "very husky citizen just the same"), his hair was graying, and his step had slowed. He let Lou explain himself (saying he had skipped the Haines City exhibition game the year before and had missed others in previous springs—no big deal). Gehrig joked that the press was casting him in a movie called Buried Alive.

"Yes, sir," he said, "the pallbearers have me dead and buried. Do I look it?"

On the contrary, Kieran wrote.

Kieran was an intellectual in the midst of a long run as a panelist on the NBC Radio quiz show Information, Please! And in this column, he cited Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem "The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay" to deflect other reporters' Gehrig prophecies about a "sudden plunge from his old heights." Lou, he wrote, was not like the poem's titular horse-drawn carriage, which falls apart "all at once and nothing first, just as bubbles do when they burst." He was correct; Lou was falling apart gradually and inexorably, as ALS takes its victims.

The column was a brief in defense of Lou—an influential friend's plea to stop the drumbeat of grim predictions, most of them right, of Gehrig's demise.

"Lou's request," he wrote, "is for the volunteer pallbearers to stand away from the Iron Horse's head. He thinks he can pull his own weight and maybe a little bit more."

It would have been convenient to blame his decline on aging limbs and less supple muscles and the toll of playing in 2,122 games, to that point with injuries and broken bones. His wife, Eleanor, had witnessed a litany of woes that suggested something much more dire: Lou could get inexplicably drowsy; he stumbled over curbs like a "punch-drunk fighter"; he flopped around while ice skating at PlayLand Ice Casino. She remembered, too, a vomiting fit between games of a doubleheader accompanied by a 104-degree fever that a doctor diagnosed as a gall bladder condition.

"Lou had a greenish color," she reported. Another doctor told him to avoid butter, fried foods, and bread. Another diagnosis suggested he was low on calcium.

His local doctors—none of them yet neurologists, who likely would have understood the signs of ALS—were failing him as surely as his body was.

Lou was understandably confused: How could someone with so much power and coordination—who could hit whistling line drives like no one else, who fielded his position brilliantly, and who, since Ruth's departure from the Yankees in early 1935, was the team's undisputed leader—lose his skills so rapidly?

His teammates saw it. Joe DiMaggio watched him whiff at nineteen consecutive batting practice pitches that he would normally destroy. "He didn't have a shred of his former power or his timing," he wrote in his autobiography. Johnny Sturm, a minor leaguer at St. Petersburg that spring, recalled that Gehrig told him, "I can't do it no more." In German, Gehrig told Sturm that he felt "schlect," or terrible.

There was little question of Lou making the 1939 roster. Barrow and McCarthy could only hope that Gehrig would recover his form and give the Yankees a season like 1938.

"McCarthy will keep him in there," Talbot wrote, "as long as the club is in the race, though he doesn't hit over .250 and fields only the balls that are hit right down his gullet… They have in Joe Gordon a great second baseman, a kid who can go so far to his left and come up with the ball that few spectators will ever realize he's helping Gehrig with his chores."

But that was wishful thinking. His stumbles were only too noticeable.

The Yankees headed north from Florida—at a stop in Norfolk, Lou's two homers brought fleeting encouragement that he was renascent—and played the Dodgers in an exhibition game at Ebbets Field. Frank Graham of the New York Sun recalled a few years later in his biography of Gehrig that McCarthy sidestepped reporters' questions about Lou's condition. He would not concede anything definitive but guided reporters to the all-too-obvious before them.

"Watch Lou," he told the press as fielding practice began.

"Lou looked very bad," Graham wrote, continuing:

"He would go down for a ground ball hit straight at him, and the ball would go through him. Or he would come up with the ball and throw it to second or third base and then start for first base to take a return throw but he would be woefully slow. Back of first base some fans jeered at him. 'Why don't you give yourself up?' one of them yelled. 'What do you want McCarthy to do, burn that uniform off you?'"

Lou played as awfully as he felt, as the season began. Schlect, indeed.

He played eight games starting April 2. His streak was up to 2,130 games.

In 28 at-bats, he had no home runs. Just 4 singles, and 1 run batted in, collected in a game where he had 2 hits but exhibited further proof that his athletic death was moving rapidly closer.

On April 25 against the Philadelphia A's at Yankee Stadium, he singled DiMaggio to second. In the fifth, his weak dribbler to A's first baseman Nick Etten scored Henrich. And in the eighth, a weak fly ball—a Texas Leaguer—gave him his second hit of the day. Then, as he tried to turn it into a double—an instinct, perhaps, or a vain attempt to prove that his skills weren't gone—he was tagged out standing up at second base. Times writer Arthur J. Daley dropped a disquieting note late in his story that Yankee reserve second baseman Bill Knickerbocker "saved Gehrig from an error in the fourth when he fielded a ball that had caromed off Lou's glove, Ruffing making the putout at first."

Lou knew it was over. On an off day before the Yankees traveled to Detroit, he came home to Larchmont. Eleanor wrote that she saw a man "troubled, even shocked" by the stinging remark of a teammate—so simple and hurtful.

"He's through," he heard the teammate say.

Lou was hurt by whispers that had grown louder about his failures at bat and in the field. He knew he wasn't giving the team what he used to. Eleanor reminded her devastated husband that "he'd always said he would step down" if he felt he could no longer help the team. Her devotion was to her husband, not his team, although he had, since they wed in 1933, balanced his loyalties to both. Eleanor saw more than a Yankee: She saw the man she loved.

"I told him the heartbreaking words," she said. "'Maybe that time's come.'"

That moment came the next morning in the lobby of the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. Gehrig saw McCarthy at the cigar counter and they rode the elevator to the manager's room. He told McCarthy he was benching himself.

"I'll let him take a rest," McCarthy told reporters before the game, "and then when he is feeling better, I'll put him back in to see how he goes. Meantime, I will give Babe Dahlgren every opportunity to win a regular job."

That afternoon, when Lou brought the lineup card to the umpires at home plate, Tigers announcer Ty Tyson told the crowd that the consecutive games streak was now over. "Give a good ballplayer a good—" Tyson said, but fans cut him off with rousing cheers. Lou tipped his cap and walked to the bench, his head bowed.

The Detroit Free Press's coverage of Gehrig's decision included two large pictures, one of Lou sitting on the Yankee bench, another of Dahlgren at first. Over the images, the headline read: "DETROIT, JINX CITY, IS PLACE WHERE HIS LONG STRING IS ENDED." A caption explained that he had, over the years, been sick or injured during games at Briggs Stadium but always managed to keep his streak going.

Now it was over, and he poured out his feelings to Eleanor in a letter written on Book-Cadillac's hotel stationery, with its tiny corporate crest above its name.

Taking himself out of the lineup, he wrote, "was inevitable, although I dreaded the day, and my thoughts were with you constantly—How would this affect you and I—that was the big question and the most important thing underlying everything. I broke just before the game because of thoughts of you—not because I didn't know you are the bravest kind of partner but because my inferiority grabbed me and made me wonder and ponder if I could possibly prove myself worthy."

He still had hope, but it was tempered.

"As for me," he added, "the road may come to a dead end here, but why should it?—Seems like our backs are to the wall now, but there usually comes a way out—where, and what, I know not, but who can tell that it might not lead right out to greater things—Time will tell—"

Nothing could stop ALS. Incurable then. Incurable now.

A month later, Lou was still with the team, slipping into his uniform at home and on the road, still the team captain. On June 1, a team secret became public knowledge. The Yankees were in Cleveland for a three-game series with the Indians with a six-and-a-half-game lead in the American League. Johnny Schulte, a journeyman catcher serving McCarthy as a coach, was speaking to a Knights of Columbus group and blurted out that Lou was headed for an examination at the Mayo Clinic.

"Lou is a sick man," he said. "Sometime in the next few days he's going to Rochester to find out what it is that's been sapping his strength. We hope it's nothing serious, though it doesn't look good now," he said.

Lou denied it as a rumor. A few days later, though, he confessed it was true, and he said that he lied because he hadn't told Eleanor about his plans. Given their relationship, and Eleanor's strong personality, not telling her of his pending Mayo visit sounded unlikely and even rash. What he said also contradicts Eleanor's written account in her memoir, My Luke and I, that it was her idea for him to go to Mayo, and that she called the clinic from the 21 Club to schedule the appointment. She had waited until after the Yankees finished their game in Chicago the following week to call Lou, who quickly agreed to fly to Rochester, Minnesota, the next day. Her version might be entirely true, but her tendency to put herself at the center of a critical event like this makes Lou look almost like a passive player.

Lou's remarks suggested how worried he was by the early signs of the disease that he preferred not to divulge—typically, they are muscle cramps, twitching, weak limbs, and clumsy hands—and how much denial he was in.

"I'm not sick," he told reporters. Almost certainly lying, he added:


  • "Intriguing...a must for movie and baseball buffs...Sandomir mines a rich vein of lustrous personalities."—The New York Times
  • "The riveting story behind the making of The Pride of the Yankees is finally being told in Richard Sandomir's meticulously researched and gracefully written book. He brings to vivid life Eleanor Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and Samuel Goldwyn's efforts to turn a hero's life into a heartfelt film."—Gay Talese
  • "It wouldn't be much of a stretch to call Sandomir's book as much of a classic as the movie that inspired it."—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • "If you grew up with The Pride of the Yankees as a yearly staple on Ch. 11--or just watch it now whenever it pops up on MLB Network--you must read Richard Sandomir's book of the same name on the making of that wonderful movie....You'll be done - and ready to watch the movie all over again"—Mike Vaccaro, New York Post
  • "The brave, tragic story of Lou Gehrig, the great baseball player, was a script waiting to be written. With affection and reportorial savvy, Richard Sandomir describes how one myth begat another to produce the legendary baseball movie that still can make people cry. The Pride of the Yankees recalls a lost world, when Hollywood had the power to create dreams that people wanted to believe."—Julie Salamon, author of The Devil's Candy and Wendy and the Lost Boys
  • "More than the story of a movie or even an era of baseball, Richard Sandomir's brilliantly reported book transports us back to an age of real heroes who had both grit and elegance. In doing so, he issues a valuable challenge to today's stars: character matters."—James Andrew Miller, bestselling author of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN
  • "How was Lou Gehrig's timeless story brought to the Big Screen? Richard Sandomir answers that question with deft precision and warmth."—Tim McCarver, former MLB catcher and announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals
  • "Sandomir spotlights a significant moment in baseball history and solidifies Gehrig for a new generation of Yankees fans."—
  • "The fascinating inside story of the 75-year-old film....Even if you've seen the movie 100 times, this book will give you a different perspective."—The Chicago Tribune
  • "There are very few great movies about sports, but after more than seventy years The Pride of the Yankees remains at the top of the roster because it focuses on the pride and grace that sports, at their best, display. As Richard Sandomir's fascinating book shows, this beautiful movie emerged simply because Samuel Goldwyn needed a vehicle for Gary Cooper, whose gift for quiet anguish made Lou Gehrig immortal. It's an irresistible story."—Scott Eyman, New York Times bestselling author of John Wayne: Life and Legend
  • "Packed with fascinating new detail, The Pride of the Yankees will be the delight of baseball fans and movie buffs. Think of it as a triple play: great ballplayer, great movie, great book."—Jonathan Eig, author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig
  • "An authoritative take on what's factual (not that much), what's fanciful (a whole lot) and what's a bit of of film and baseball will appreciate Sandomir's book."—The Associated Press
  • "When it comes to the confluence of sports, business and culture, nobody hits and fields like Rich Sandomir, an all-star, maybe even an Iron Horse."—Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental Sportswriter
  • "Sandomir has written a great book about a movie and a man who has inspired millions. Timed to the 75th anniversary of the film's release, it would make an excellent Father's Day gift."—Sporting News
  • "Think you know all there is to know about Lou Gehrig and the movie that so movingly tells his tragic story? Think again. In this fascinating new book, the great Richard Sandomir takes us inside the making of The Pride of the Yankees while also delivering rich new detail about Gehrig's short life. It's a cliche to say this book is a home run, but it's true. It is."—Christine Brennan, USA Today sports columnist and ABC News, CNN, and NPR commentator
  • "New York Times sports columnist Richard Sandomir reveals for the first time the full story behind the pioneering, seminal movie. Filled with larger than life characters and unexpected facts, the book shows us how Samuel Goldwyn had no desire to make a baseball film but he was persuaded to make a quick deal with Lou's widow, Eleanor, not long after Gehrig had passed. A great book if you want to know, in the immortal words of the late Paul Harvey, 'the rest of the story.'"—
  • "Richard Sandomir was as well cast to write this book as Gary Cooper was to play the great Gehrig. Baseball fans and movie lovers will devour this book."—David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered and Clemente
  • "In this emotional and fascinating tale, Sandomir brilliantly captures the spirit of the film and Gehrig's life. Film lovers and baseball fans will enjoy."—Library Journal
  • "An affectionate look at the making of the 1942 baseball biopic Pride of the Yankees, the rarest of movies--an American icon played by an American icon."—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • "This book is so enjoyable that one day there will be a book about the making of the book that told the story of the making of the movie."—Marty Appel, former public relations director for the New York Yankees and author of Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss

On Sale
Jun 13, 2017
Page Count
304 pages
Hachette Books

Richard Sandomir

About the Author

Richard Sandomir has written for the New York Times since 1991, covering spots, business, and obituaries. He is the author or co-author of several books including Bald Like Me, and, more recently, The Enlightened Bracketologist and its sequel, The Final Four of Everything.

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