The late Jack Sher was a well-known screenplay and television writer. His credits include four episodes of “The Bing Crosby Show”, three episodes of “Bewitched”, two episodes of “Hazel” and one episode of “The Wackiest Ship in the Army.”
His movie credits include “My Favorite Spy” (1951), “Off Limits” (1952), “The Wild and Innocent” (1959) and “Paris Blues” (1961). In 1952, he also wrote additional dialogue for the movie “Shane,” which has long been recognized on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies of all-time. When Sher died in 1988, the New York Times obituary said Sher had been the writer or producer on 32 films.
But what’s forgotten about Sher is that he penned numerous insightful baseball articles for Sport magazine. For example, in the October, 1948 Sport Magazine (pictured above) Sher authored a portrait of the great Lou Gehrig.
The underlying theme of the story is that Gehrig’s accomplishments, particularly in the postseason, could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Babe Ruth.
“You don’t have to risk marring the Bambino’s tremendous World Series feats in order to immortalize Lou Gehrig,” Sher wrote.
Ruth socked 15 World Series home runs to Gehrig’s 10. But Gehrig’s World Series average was .361 to Ruth’s .325. Gehrig had the record of 35 RBI in World Series games. In 1928, Gehrig drove in nine runs in a four-game sweep against the Cardinals.
Gehrig died in 1941, but the story was based on interviews Sher conducted from players of that era. Here are interesting insights from the article.
*** According to Sher, Bucky Harris, manager of the New York Yankees in 1948, rated Gehrig even with Babe Ruth “as a terror at the plate.”
“Listen,” Harris told Sher, “When the guy came to bat, all you could do is hold your breath. When you consider everything, the number of games he played, the way he hit, his reliability, and his drive, he was for me, the greatest first baseman of all-time.”
When a sportwriter listening to Sher’s interview told Harris that the great Bill Terry wasn’t going to like reading that quote, Harris didn’t back down.
“I’ll take Gehrig,” Harris told Sher. “Everyone keeps picking (George) Sisler and (Frank) Chance and Terry, but maybe they ought to take a look at Lou’s record. He didn’t seem very fancy around first base, but he happened to field 1.000 in all but one World Series. In seven World Series, his fielding average was .997.”
***Sher wrote this telling sentence about Gehrig’s inability to escape Ruth’s shadow: “The tragedy of Gehrig’s tremendous record and stunning career was not only that he lacked the flashy showiness so popular during the era in which he played, but that he always seemed to rise to his greatest heights at the precise time it would be least noticed.”
***Throughout the article, Sher pointed out that Gehrig never looked the part of the All-American baseball player.
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw him,” former Yankees coach Johnny Schulte told Sher. “He was a big lumberjack type. He didn’t look like a ball player. With that barrel chest, piano legs, wide rump and those rolls of fat, he looked more like a wrestler. We all laughed at him. But how he worked! He played himself into a well-built man.”
***The story also tells of a confrontation Gehrig had with Ty Cobb that feeds into the historical depiction of Cobb as a hateful player.
According to Sher, Cobb frequently chirped at Gehrig using “vituperative language.”
“You’re a bum,” Cobb would say, according to the article. “You’re a thick-headed no-good Dutchman. Get out of there, you lousy Kraut.”
Gehrig handled the abuse for months until one day the distasteful epithets got to him. He snapped and attempted to attack Cobb in the Tigers’ dugout. Cobb dodged him, and Gehrig fell awkwardly to the dugout floor. He still tried to punch Cobb, but players broke up the fight before it occurred.
The next day Cobb promised to keep his mouth shut around Gehrig and the two men shook hands. Sher said it was another example of what a decent man Gehrig was.
*** A year before Gehrig died, he told Sher he didn’t view himself as a person who was born to play baseball.
“Some ballplayers have natural-born ability,” Gehrig said. “But I wasn’t one of them. You take a player like Joe DiMaggio. Now there’s a natural. Baseball comes easy to him. He instinctively knows the right thing to do and does it. Charlie Gehringer is another one. Fellows like Joe and Charlie never go through that awkward period. Sometimes I wonder how in the world I was able to make it.”