It’s hard to judge between Jimmie Foxx vs Lou Gehrig, two of the great first basemen of all time. That’s partly because Gehrig has become such a part of the fabric of American history, a person even fans today know about – and even people who are not baseball fans.
Gehrig’s tragic death from ALS in 1941 ended his life far too early. It had already ended his career two years earlier, when the ravages of the disease left him unable to play. His famous speech at Yankees Stadium and a popular movie about his life starring Gary Cooper cemented his place in American history.
Jimmie Foxx vs Lou Gehrig
Here we will focus (mostly) on the numbers. Of course, it’s added fun that while Foxx played most of his games with the Philadelphia Athletics, he also spent six-plus seasons in a Boston Red Sox uniform. Gehrig spent 17 seasons in Major League baseball, every one of them in New York Yankees pinstripes.
Red Sox vs Yankees always adds a bit of extra spice to any debate between two players.
The Case for Foxx
The first eye-popping statistic on Foxx are the 12 seasons of 30 home runs and the 13 seasons of at least 100 RBI. His 534 homers placed him behind only Babe Ruth for career home runs at the time of his retirement. He also won the hitting triple crown in 1933.
Foxx won the American League batting championship in 1933 and 1938. He also led the American League in home runs four times. He won two World Series as part of the 1929 and 1930 Philadelphia Athletics.
Given his performance on the field, plenty of accolades followed. Foxx was named American League MVP three times and was selected for nine All-Star games. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951.
The Case for Gehrig
Gehrig famously played in 2,130 consecutive games at first base for the New York Yankees. He got the position when Wally Pipp took a game off in 1925 because he had a headache. Pipp later quipped: “I took the two most expensive aspirin in history.”
Gehrig scored more than 100 runs and knocked in more than 100 RBI for 13 consecutive seasons. His performance was very well-rounded: he led the AL four times in runs scored, three times in home runs, five times in RBI, five times in on-base percentage and also won the AL batting title once.
He knocked in a jaw-dropping 185 runs in 1931. The jaw drops even further when you consider he was hitting behind Babe Ruth.
Gehrig was on all seven All-Star teams that he was eligible to make.
As part of an amazing Yankees lineup, Gehrig was part of teams that won six AL pennants and seven World Series. He hit well under the pressure of postseason play, too, with a lifetime .361 batting average in 34 World Series games. He also hit 10 home runs and drove in 35 runs.
When deciding the Jimmie Foxx vs Lou Gehrig debate, many Foxx fans felt Gehrig may have overshadowed Foxx because he played in New York (and was also a native New Yorker). Foxx certainly hit with more home run power. He truly was second only to Babe Ruth during the first half of the 20th century in terms of power, and his power hitting stats remain amazing even today.
Gehrig seems the better all-around player, a fact testified to by the Baseball Writers Association of America, who named him the best first baseman of all time in 1969.
Gehrig’s story may have something to do with this, as well. After all, the Iron Man on the field was struck down early in life.
But there’s also no denying his great statistics, ability to come through in big moments and the fact that, on July 4, 1939, he gave a speech at Yankees Stadium that remains an iconic moment representing grace and strength under terrible circumstances.