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Obviously, the beaning had nothing to do with Pipp's losing his job. It had already been lost because of his weak hitting. Probably because these two major events, the benching and the beaning, occurred only a month apart, they became intertwined in Pipp's mind. The psychic anguish of the former and the physical pain of the latter became one.
It is also possible that Pipp, who dabbled in sportswriting for several publications, including SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, after his playing days, just knew a good story when he heard one.
The way [Tito] Landrum played this evening, [Vince] Coleman is going to hear a lot of jokes from teammates about Wally Pipp.
In life, as in legend, Pipp and Gehrig were inextricably linked. The two happened to meet in the lobby of Detroit's Book-Cadillac Hotel on the day in 1939 that Gehrig finally took himself out of the Yankee lineup.
Pipp and his son Ben had gone to Tiger Stadium that afternoon, and they saw Babe Dahlgren play in Gehrig's place. Dahlgren hit a home run and a double in five at bats as the Yankees clobbered the Tigers 22-2. Though Gehrig sat on the bench and watched Dahlgren's debut, nobody suggested he was now playing Wally Pipp to Dahlgren's Gehrig. No one Pipped Lou Gehrig.
Gehrig never played another game. He left baseball in the most memorable farewell in the game's history. On July 4, 1939, at Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day in Yankee Stadium, the teary-eyed first baseman thanked the New York fans, saying, "You've been reading about my bad break for weeks now, but today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." He died at 37 on June 2, 1941, 16 years to the day after he replaced Pipp in the lineup.
When Pipp retired, there was little ado about his adieu. He spent 15 seasons in the majors, with a lifetime average of .281. The only position he ever played was first base, and he did it masterfully. He was one of only three players ever to lead both leagues in fielding, and he still holds or shares the record for most seasons leading the American League in putouts, chances accepted and double plays (four years each).
In 1929, playing for the Newark Bears of the International League, he was finally able to get in on the financial action with a percentage of the gate. He made $40,000, according to his son Tom. "It was more than he ever made in the majors," Tom says. After batting .312, he put his first baseman's mitt in permanent storage. "He picked a great time to retire," says Ben Pipp, laughing. "October 1929."
Pipp tried playing the stock market for several years, and Tom Pipp says his father's charts filled the house. Pipp even wrote a book about the market called Buying Cheap and Selling Dear. He also broadcast a pregame baseball show for the Detroit Tigers, wrote radio scripts and dabbled in publishing. For several years he organized community baseball programs for the National Youth Administration. Sometimes, he couldn't find work.
"We kneeled down and said prayers at night that Dad would get a job," Walter Jr. says. "I remember praying next to my sister. Those were rough times."