Credit author Richard Sandomir with seeing the potential in writing the behind-the-scenes story of a famous baseball movie, “Pride of the Yankees,” which chronicles the inspiring yet heartbreaking story of Lou Gehrig. In turn, Sandomir credits Hollywood movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn with making the movie that captured the unforgettable goodbye speech that Gehrig, struggling with a disease that would come to bear his name, gave what has been called “baseball’s Gettysburg Address” at Yankee Stadium in 1939. Sandomir delves into the casting of the movie, how Gary Cooper was taught to play baseball, and the concerns Gehrig’s wife had about Babe Ruth’s involvement in the movie.
Here’s an excerpt from Pride of the Yankees:
“Hollywood’s films were already reflecting the country’s war footing by the time Pride was released in July 1942, depicting European battlefields and the plight of the people whom the soldiers left behind. So [film mogul Samuel] Goldwyn hired Damon Runyon, the wise-cracking Broadway writer and sportswriter whose short stories would years later be adapted into Guys and Dolls, to write a patriotic foreward to the film.
“Runyon covered sports for the Hearst syndicate and reported on Gehrig and Ruth…. Writing about the 1927 World Series between the Yankees and Pittsburgh, he wrote, ‘Mr. Ruth and Mr. Gehrig are warm friends, despite the fact that Mr. Gehrig seemed to be infringing on Mr. Ruth’s copyright during the greater part of the season. I am told, however, that the Columbia young man operated under written permission from Mr. Ruth who felt that there were enough home runs in the American League pitching’ – 60 from Ruth and 47 from Gehrig – ‘to be cut up several ways.’ ”