We all know that first baseman Wally Pipp had a headache one day in June of 1925. The Yankees gave him the day off, a youngster named Lou Gehrig replaced him in the lineup and that was it for Pipp: Gehrig played every one of the next 2,130 games, a major league record.
That's how legend has it, anyway. But that's not exactly the way it happened. Writer-reporter Bruce Anderson, who since January has been digging into Pipp's life, discovered there's more to it—and to Pipp—than any of us realized. His story on Pipp begins on page 78. "I was fascinated that this guy's name continually comes up but no one knows anything about him," says Anderson. "Being 'a Wally Pipp' is considered a negative thing, but I found his name is unfairly tainted."
Anderson's research was exhaustive. He combed through old newspapers and the archives at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and in a Nexis computer search he discovered a plethora of recent Pipp references, including one in Dun's Business Month. He tracked down Pipp's four children, who were themselves curious to learn more about their father's background. "They would ask me, 'Well what do you know?' " says Anderson. "I would tell them what I had found, and they would say, 'Geez—is that right?' "
Anderson's association with baseball lore goes back literally to his birth, in Hollister, Calif. In the Oct. 8, 1956, edition of the Hollister Evening Free Lance—a paper that considered all local births news—Anderson's arrival was on Page One, along with Don Larsen's perfect World Series game.
By the time Anderson was a sophomore in high school, he had moved from the front page to the sports page. As the only catcher on the jayvee team, he had no choice but to show Gehrig-like durability. "At the end of every practice," he recalls, "the coach would tell me, 'Now don't get sick....' "
Since moving to Playa del Rey, Calif. in 1985, Anderson has been no less of an Iron Horse as SI's eyes and ears in Southern California. In recent months he has written about the Cubs' Andre Dawson, the NCAA volleyball championships and the San Felipe Derby, while handling a full load of reporting work and filing story ideas to our editors in New York.
"Having finished the story, I don't think I'm finished with Wally Pipp," says Anderson, who hopes people will continue to provide him with Pipp stories. "Here's a guy who was famous for one thing—losing his job," he says. "But he was also a star first baseman, a writer, a great storyteller and the subject of the greatest story he ever could have told."
We'll let Anderson tell it.
Anderson fields SI's queries in L.A.