Perhaps no baseball player has been as lionized as Lou Gehrig, whose well-known battle with the disease that now bears his name was almost as prodigious as his hitting feats for the Yankees in the 1920s and '30s. Jonathan Eig's Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig is a major biography that benefits from excellent research, stylish writing and a fierce determination on the part of the author to get beyond mere legend. Playing in the shadow of Ruth, Gehrig nonetheless carved out his own place in the baseball record books. Eig doesn't stint on the sporting anecdotes, and the era of the early Yankees dynasty comes fully alive. But equally interesting are his accounts of the battles between Gehrig's doting mother, Christina, and his strong-willed, ex-flapper wife, Eleanor. Finally, there is the story of Gehrig's illness, still riveting in its pathos, which Eig covers with revealing medical and personal details. A frailer, more human and less-iconic Gehrig emerges here, but one no less courageous.

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