Lou Gehrig was a major league baseball player who played 17 seasons for the New York Yankees from 1923 to 1939. He played a record 2,130 games consecutively, held a career batting average of .340, and became one of the most loved baseball players of all time. He earned the nickname “Iron Horse” for his endurance and strength despite playing with multiple injuries.
In 1938, it became clear that something was wrong with Gehrig when his batting average fell below .300 for the first time in 13 years. He grew weak, sluggish, and only played the first 8 games of the 1939 season. Doctors determined that he had the rare degenerative disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), now known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which results in the deterioration of muscles and motor skills. Gehrig played his last game in 1939, passing away two years later at age 37, becoming the first player in MLB history to have his number retired.
Former MLB pitcher Tommy John is another famous athlete whose name is as well known in the field of medicine as it is on the baseball field. Pitching for six teams throughout his 16-year career, John totaled 288 career victories, ranking seventh highest among left-handers in major league history. In his case it was the cure and not the disease that took on his name.
During the 1974 season, John permanently damaged the UCL in his pitching arm, which led to the revolutionary surgery that has changed the history of baseball and saved the careers of countless pitchers. The operation, now known as Tommy John Surgery, is a surgical graft procedure that replaces the UCL in the elbow with a tendon from another part of the body. At first it seemed unlikely that John would ever pitch again, but the procedure was so successful that he returned in 1976 and continued to pitch until 1989.
These two athletes are not only well known for their sports careers, but also in the world of medicine. Because of this, their legends will live on far beyond the playing field. The same can be said for the individuals highlighted in this edition of Saline County Lifestyles. These healthcare professionals are making a name for themselves in the field of medicine as well as making a difference in the world around them. Your town. Your life. Your magazine.