When Tiger coach Billy Consolo read the lineup last week and included Chet Lemon's name, Kirk Gibson bellowed, "Wally who?"
—SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, June 30, 1986
Despite the newspaper reports that Pipp was benched, the story of his supposed headache persists. In the 1960s or '70s, Ben Pipp says, a pharmaceutical company ran a print ad for its aspirin that featured a baseball player's profile and an admonition to take the aspirin or suffer "a Wally Pipp headache."
The headache story first appeared in 1939, 14 years after the "fact," in a New York World-Telegram column by Dan Daniel. Pipp told Daniel: "The story of Gehrig taking my job often has been written but never has the truth been told. I'd like you to get the real yarn. As a kid in school I was injured in a hockey game. The disc struck over my left eye and hurt the optic nerve.... In addition to impairing my vision, that accident left me with a lifetime of headaches.
"When I came into the Yankee clubhouse at noon...I had one of those terrific pains. I asked Doc Woods, our trainer, for a couple of aspirin tablets. It was my tough luck to have Miller Hug-gins pass just as Doc was handing me the painkiller.
"I had not done so well, but the club was going worse than I was.... Huggins said, 'Wally, if you aren't feeling fit, just take it easy. I'll let this kid Gehrig see what he can do at first base and tomorrow you can go back.'
"Boy, was that a headache! It did not leave me for years...."
Pipp's children do not recall their father suffering from recurring headaches. Also, none of the many New York newspapers that covered the Yankees reported Pipp feeling indisposed. Still, Pipp's remarks to Daniel don't rule out the possibility that he did indeed have a headache and that Huggins seized on that as an excuse for removing him from the lineup along with Ward and Schang.
Far less plausible is a story that Pipp was done in by a beaning. When The Pride of the Yankees came out in 1942, fans saw Pipp—played, in case you didn't remember, by an actor named George MacDonald—pull himself out of a game because of double vision. "Better take me out, Miller," Pipp says to Huggins. "I been seeing double since I was beaned the other day."
This version was supported by a column that ran in The New York Times in 1953. Pipp now dismissed the business about a headache, saying, "It's a very delightful and romantic story...but it just isn't correct.... Here's what actually happened. I was taking batting practice that day and the guy who was pitching for us was a big, strong kid from Princeton, Charlie Caldwell.... Charlie whistled one in and, somehow or other, I just couldn't duck. The ball hit me right here on the temple. Down I went and I was much too far gone to bother reaching for any aspirin bottles."
The Times was guilty of sloppy reporting. Caldwell beaned Pipp all right, but it happened on July 2, a full month afterGehrig had sent Pipp to the pine. On July 3, the Times reported: "It was stated early this morning that the player would live." Pipp was hospitalized for more than a week and played very little for the Yankees after he returned.