Thursday, October 31, 2013

Attempt made to steal Gehrig's ashes

Perhaps it was an overzealous collector. If the card companies had been around, it might have been one of them looking for material for insert cards.

Whomever it was, an attempt was made on July 25, 1947, to steal Lou Gehrig's ashes from Kensico Cemetery in Westchester County, N.Y.

Police reported that parties unknown appeared to have succeeded in jimmying open the bronze crypt inside of Gehrig's headstone, but were not -- so far as it was known -- able to get into the urn that held his remains.

Rattled by the attempt, Eleanor Gehrig contacted the Baseball Hall of Fame about possibly accepting the ashes and placing them in a vault beneath Gehrig's plaque. Those negotiations broke off, however, when officials at Cooperstown began kicking around the idea of creating a "repository for the immortals" at the museum. Too, there was the question of satisfying requests of spouses, children, etc., who wished to repose in perpetual proximity to their ball playing loved ones.

Upon the death of Eleanor Gehrig in 1984, the vault was again opened to receive her ashes. Contrary to her expressed wishes to have her ashes commingled with Lou's, they were interred in a separate urn. Attorney George Pollack, representative of the Gehrigs' estate, resisted the urge to pop open Lou's urn to settle the question of whether they were still reposing there.

Some years later, concerned over not having mixed the couple's ashes, Pollack determined to do so. When he attempted to unlock the crypt, however, he was unsuccessful because a penny had been jammed into the lock and he was unable to remove it. Pollack took that as a sign and the ashes of both Lou and Eleanor (presumably) remain in situ today.

Lou Gehrig's tombstone, by the way, contains an error in his birth year, reading 1905, rather than the correct 1903. While cemetery officials are aware of the mistake, there are no living relatives to authorize a correction. 

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