The story begins over eighty years ago. In 1930 Yankee legend Lou Gehrig, who was notoriously shy, was smitten with a young redhead named Ruth Martin. Very little is known about their courtship, but there are strong indications he wanted to marry her.
At 27 years of age, Lou was in his seventh season with the Yankees. And although he was forced to share the spotlight with Babe Ruth, he was a major star on baseball’s biggest stage. But it was another era, and the future hall-of-famer was still living with his parents, who held considerable sway over him. His mother, Christina, was strong-willed, and it’s been speculated that she didn’t like Lou’s love interest. So, just like that, the relationship ended.
Three year later Gehrig married Eleanor Grace Twitchell, determined to finally set out on his own. Prior to the wedding he still sounded conflicted, telling a local baseball writer, “Mom is the most wonderful woman in the world. She broke up some of my earlier romances, and she isn’t going to break up this one.”
As most people know, Lou died a young man in 1941, a victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Lou’s mother reportedly feuded with his widow over the will.
But a curious thing happened in the years following Lou Gehrig’s death. That redhead, Ruth Martin, eventually married Herbert Quick and together they had a son, Jeffrey. Somehow, someway, for reasons only speculated, Lou Gehrig’s parents became good friends with the Quicks, especially their new son. They visited numerous times, even vacationing together. When Christina died in 1954, she left half of her estate to the Quicks, including a treasure trove of her son’s baseball memorabilia.
The reason this is all coming to light now is that just yesterday, Jeffrey decided to place several of those prized possessions up for auction. Items included a uniform Lou wore in Japan in 1934, a 1928 World Series wristwatch, and a baseball signed by the 1926 Yankees. They were expected to command a total of between $500,000 and $1,000,000.
As I mentioned, nobody knows for certain why Christina Gehrig was so drawn to Ruth’s family after apparently discouraging her son from marrying her. Writing in Monday’s New York Times, Peter Applebome hinted at the reason:
When he (Jeffrey Quick) was born in 1942, Christina Gehrig had one special gift for him. She took a Lou Gehrig Spalding first baseman’s glove into the Yankees locker room and had it signed by the manager, Joe McCarthy, and players like Red Ruffing, Joe Gordon, Tommy Henrich and Bill Dickey, as well as Dr. Joseph Frank, the physician who delivered him.
Perhaps it was just a gift for a good friend’s baby. Perhaps it also had a touch of what-might-have-been for the grandson she never had.
This story has got me thinking: how best does a parent balance their involvement with an adult child when it comes to the matter of their choosing a spouse? From my perspective, it should be advisory, not dictatorial, as it appears to have been with Christina Gehrig.
But I’m curious about your perspective. For those parents with adult children, how have you found that balance – and what challenges have you faced along the way?
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