Lou Gehrig, Angler (Part 2)

On December 7, 1933 Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Fred Fletcher bundled up for a cod-fishing trip off Fire Island. Actually, photos show that Babe bundled up like a third-grade child walking to school—pants tucked into calf-length boots, fur-lined winter coat, heavy gloves and a hood covering his winter-weight cap. Gehrig wore an insulted jacket, but did not bother with gloves or head covering.

The sea was calm, but despite hours of diligent attention to their rods, neither the Babe nor Custard Pie Gehrig could land a single codfish. Babe did have one hooked, but the captain missed with his gaff and the 10-pounder (fisherman’s estimate) got away. Ruth, one of the most competitive fishermen ever to wet a line, cursed his luck, having promised to bring Mrs. Ruth a cod for supper.

As their boat headed back, the dejected fishermen spotted a commercial fishing boat with lines out. Hoping to buy some cod, they sounded the siren without effect. Babe then sounded the foghorn repeatedly and a crewman waved Lou’s Yankee sweatshirt until they made contact. Moving alongside the commercial vessel, these luckless anglers asked were there any cod to spare. When the new captain realized he was talking with two superstars from the Yankees, he tossed over eight cod totaling about 30 pounds. Babe wanted to tip the captain for this generous gift, but only had a 50-dollar bill, so Fred forked over 3 dollars.

There is no record of whether Babe claimed to have caught the fish when he got home. He and Lou did stage a photograph. Both men are shown leaning over the gunwale, Babe holding a rod with Lou gaffing a cod that appears to be stone-cold dead. All the pair had to show for their day on the ocean was a pleasant trip, someone else’s fish and a phony photograph.


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© 2020 by Alan D. Gaff