Dan Schlossberg's Weekend Report: New Lou Gehrig Stories Surface • Latino Sports

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Dan Schlossberg’s Weekend Report: New Lou Gehrig Stories Surface

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NEW YORK – Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Bob Ibach, former publications and public relations director for the Chicago Cubs, has baseball roots that date back to the days of Lou Gehrig.

With July 4 the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech, Ibach reached into his family memory bank to reveal previously-unknown personal stories about the heroic first baseman.

Like Gehrig, whose parents were poor German immigrants, the Ibachs also came to America in search of a better life for their children.

“Way back in the early ’20s, my grandfather Ernst came over from Germany and married a woman named Dora, who had come over from Switzerland in 1912,” Ibach said. “He worked as a chauffeur and she was a housekeeper.

“My grandparents, my dad Robert, and his brother Jack all lives in a little apartment above the Gehrig garage. My grandmother did housekeeping work while my grandfather was a chauffeur. His duties included taking Lou Gehrig back and forth to Yankee Stadium.”

Pensive Lou Gehrig was a kind, thoughtful man

Pensive Lou Gehrig was a kind, thoughtful man

According to Ibach, now 66 and the owner of his own sports PR firm, Gehrig lived in Fieldston, an oasis in the middle of the Bronx not far from Horace Mann, the high school the future Hall of Famer attended. Ibach’s father attended P.S. 81, across the street from a red brick building where Babe Ruth lived.

As Ibach explained, “My dad told me that one day when Gehrig was still playing, they were outside having a catch in the front yard. A Rolls-Royce drove up and Babe Ruth leaned out the window and shouted, ‘Hey kid, lemme see your arm.’ So my dad, at the age of 7 or 8, wound up having a catch in front of his house with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.”

The senior Ibach also told his son that after Gehrig contracted amoytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the slugger still found time to talk baseball with his young admirer after he got home from school. He actually sat on the edge of Gehrig’s bed.

“No wonder I got involved in baseball as a sportswriter with the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post,” said Ibach, whose first trip to the ballpark coincided with Don Larsen’s perfect game during the 1956 World Series. “People ask me how I got baseball in my blood and it all goes back to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.”

The baseball bloodlines don’t stop there either: Ibach’s son Kevin, a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays, previously worked for the Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins. The senior Ibach passed away several years ago but Uncle Jack survives in an assisted living facility in Orlando.

Ernst Ibach, like Lou Gehrig, did not enjoy a long life. He died at 49 when one of the cars he was working underneath fell on him, crushing his lungs.

Yankees wore this uniform patch in honor of Gehrig's anniversary

Yankees wore this uniform patch in honor of Gehrig’s anniversary

But nothing could crush the cherished memories of the glory years.

“My dad said Lou Gehrig was a very quiet guy, very caring, always a proper person, not given to slang. He was a nice gentleman, kind to people, and respectful. He spoke English well. He was honored to play the game but raised properly.”

Other observations at the July 4 milestone:

Quick! Pass it on: Craig Kimbrel is averaging 15.7 strikeouts per nine innings . . .

Jair Jurrjens, once an All-Star with the Atlanta Braves, will get a great comeback opportunity from the pitching-poor Colorado Rockies . . .

Great to see a Mookie in the majors again (Mookie Betts, age 21, good-hitting Red Sox utilityman) . . .

Although much was made of the boost the returning Bryce Harper will give the Washington Nationals, how about the shot in the arm Evan Gattis will give the Atlanta Braves when he returns from a bulging disc in his back right after the All-Star break? Atlanta won its first seven games after Gattis was sidelined . . .

Even without Evan, Braves are winning

Even without Evan, Braves are winning

You heard it here first: the Orioles were considering signing Cal Ripken, Jr. as a pitcher before Earl Weaver, their bantam-sized manager, demanded that they draft him as an everyday player . . .

Yangervis Solarte, who seemingly solved the sizable third base hole in the Bronx for the first few months, slumped so badly that the Yankees sent him back to the minors for more seasoning . . .

Ryan Zimmerman’s shoulder still hurts but he’s playing third base again because Nationals manager Matt Williams doesn’t want to bump leadoff man Denard Span from center field . . .

Which is less likely: ex-Yankee Raul Ibanez (released by the Angels) helping Kansas City at age 42 or fragile Grady Sizemore (released by the Red Sox) pushing the aging Phillies back into the NL East title chase . . .

No surprise to see Kyle Farnsworth released again but big surprise to see the releases of ex-Mets J.J. Putz and Chris Capuano and former Minnesota mainstay Kevin Slowey . . .

Cincy struck gold with this Cuban signee

Cincy struck gold with this Cuban signee

Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty, who struck paydirt with Cuban refugee Aroldis Chapman, hopes to catch lightning in a bottle again with Raisel Iglesias, a pitcher who received a surprising seven-year deal . . .

Oscar Taveras, the outfielder who rates as the top prospect in the St. Louis system, is up again, probably to stay, but shortstop Pete Kozma is going in the opposite direction . . .

After stinking up the place last year, the Atlanta Braves cut ties with Kameron Loe. Signed to a minor-league contract this year, he performed so poorly for Triple-A Gwinnett that he got released again . . .

How does a team know when its rehabbing player is ready to return? The Washington Nationals had no doubt when Bryce Harper hit three home runs in one game for Harrisburg.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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