Monday, October 20, 2014

The Ultimate Baseball Name: Gehrig

In my Nameberry post on baseball names, I neglected to mention a biggie: Gehrig.

Lou Gehrig, of course, was the Yankees first baseman who played 2,130 consecutive games and only broke his streak because he was stricken with a fatal disease.

The man who called himself "The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" when he knew he was going to die before reaching age 40.

The man who was the first player to have his number (4) retired.

The man who inspired the nation to fly flags at half-staff when he died.

So it's obvious why people would want to name their children in honor of him. And using the name "Lou" doesn't really do the trick. (Lou Gehrig's birth name was actually Henry Louis, and his nickname was once "Buster," though few remember that now.)

So Gehrig has become a baby name.

Former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling named his son Gehrig (and his son is now a pitcher too).

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Pat Neshek also named his son Gehrig, though the boy died within a day of being born (a tragic fate for a tragic name).

The rest of America, meanwhile, has been warming to the name over the past two decades.

Though Gehrig has never ranked in the top 1,000 of the Social Security database, there were 43 babies named Gehrig in 2003. It hasn't reached that peak since then, but the name appears to be threatening to go on another rally (it's up in each of the past three years).

And as BuboBlog's Sacramento correspondent Ellen points out, the name sounds similar to the Jarrod/Jarrett/Jared names that are already rampant in the major leagues. Maybe that could give it a boost.

Still, the association with the disease may make it a tough sell for some parents. It's also interesting to note that Gehrig was nowhere to be found in the baby-name databases in 1939 (the year Lou Gehrig retired) and 1941 (the year he died).

As I've mentioned before, people didn't care for surname-style names in the middle of the 20th century. Even one of the most inspiring stories in all of baseball wasn't quite inspiring enough to sway parents back then.

We'll see if today's parents are willing to give it a shot.