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The 1928 New York Yankees, the defending World Series champs, were a team to be reckoned with. Nicknamed “Murderers’ Row” based on how they systematically cleaned the clocks of opposing pitchers with their powerful bats, these Yankees were at the top of their game. And first baseman Lou Gehrig, batting cleanup in the No. 4 spot, was one of the biggest bashers of them all.
As a team that season, the Yankees scored 894 runs and drove in 826. Gehrig led the way with 210 hits including 47 doubles, 147 runs batted in (one RBI ahead of home run slugging teammate Babe Ruth) and a .374 batting average. The Yankees finished the season with a record of 101-53, two and a half games ahead of the American League runner-up Philadelphia Athletics. As was the norm, “The Iron Horse” started all 154 games. As good as the team was during the regular season, it was in the World Series where the Bronx Bomber, led by Gehrig’s bat, truly showed their dominance.
Squaring off against the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals (95-59), the vaunted Yankees left little doubt as to which team was the best on the baseball diamond that season. In four straight games, Gehrig and company came out on top. In Game 1, playing at home, New York prevailed 4-1 as Gehrig collected two hits and drove in two runs. In Game 2, the Yankees won 9-3 as Gehrig ripped a home run and drove in three runs.
The next two games took place in St. Louis at Sportsman’s Park III, but the change in venue did nothing to soften Gehrig’s booming bat. In Game 3, in fact, not only did the Yankees win 7-3, but Gehrig launched a pair of home runs and drove in three more runs to ensure New York’s triumph. Two days later, in the final contest of the best-of-seven-games series, Gehrig drew three walks and still managed to knock one more out of the park to help the Yankees earn the sweep with another 7-3 victory. Not only did Gehrig collect six hits in 11 at-bats to finish with a .545 batting average for the series, but he knocked in the same amount of runs (nine) as the entire St. Louis team.
On April 20, 1929, on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, a total of 30 specially designed Hamilton “Piping Rock” model wristwatches were presented to the players from the 1928 squad. Each watch was engraved with the player’s name and featured backs specifically designed with an American eagle perched atop two intersecting bats, baseball-like stitching and the following moniker: “Yankees 1928 World Champions.” A 31st watch was awarded to Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and a final watch was kept by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who served as baseball’s first commissioner and the man who personally ordered the watches to present to the players. As the story goes, three more of the watches (minus the engraving) were kept by the Hamilton Watch Company. Of this very limited original population, fewer than five have surfaced in the collecting hobby.
The “Piping Rock” is considered by most Hamilton watch collectors to be the pinnacle of the company’s watchmaking and design efforts. Featuring strong Art Deco influences, these watches include hinged lugs and a black enamel bezel with Roman numerals. Almost reminiscent of the man himself who set a major league record of playing in 2,130 straight games – a mark that stood for 56 years until Baltimore Orioles’ “Ironman,” Cal Ripken Jr., broke it on Sept. 5, 1995 – the watch is still going strong and functioning perfectly. Its period leather strap shows expected signs of age and wear. It is known that most of Lou Gehrig’s championship rings and other presentation jewelry were deconstructed and fashioned into an elaborate charm bracelet for his wife Eleanor. That bracelet now resides at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The offered 1928 World Series watch, engraved and presented to “Henry L. Gehrig,” better known as “Lou,” survives not only as the pinnacle of Gehrig’s surviving awards, it is indisputably among the world’s finest sports awards, period.
Provenance: Lou Gehrig’s 1928 World Series wrist watch was among a small but significant group of his career mementos that was bequeathed by Lou’s mother Christina Gehrig to a longtime family friend Ruth Quick upon her death in 1954. The watch remained in the Quick family until 2011.