Profiles in Teamwork: Lou Gehrig

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Team dynamics are critical for any organization. The tired clichés and adages pertaining to teamwork stick around because they are so true. Successful organizations and departments always have people working together for the common mission, and a well working team can achieve much success. Sure, there are outliers and in some cases, a collective working as separate entities can still achieve success, but odds are not in their favor.

I love looking at leading industry figures and historical examples of good leaders and teamwork. Learn what made a particular team or organization successful, and if applicable, emulate the ideas and practices when able. Learning from history can be immensely valuable, as many of these lessons are timeless. A great leader at the turn of the 20th century would be a great leader at that start of the 21st century. Technology is radically different, but the concepts of teamwork and leadership are always relevant, regardless of the era or time.

One of my favorite historical figures is Lou Gehrig. Gehrig played first base for the New York Yankees during the 1920s through the 1930s, and was a key figure on the famous 1927 “Murderers Row” Yankees, still regarded as one of the best teams in baseball history. Gehrig was quiet and measured, and always the consummate professional. Playing behind the boisterous and larger-than-life Babe Ruth, Gehrig always was relegated to the background. Ruth made the headlines with his antics on and off the field, while Gehrig quietly worked to make the team better.

Gehrig played key parts of the seven World Series championships he won as a member of the Yankees. Without his constant and consistent presence in the lineup, I would argue they would have won much less. Known for his continuous games played record of 2,130 games played, which stood for 56 years, Gehrig was the essence of the team. His stats, even when compared to more offensive eras of baseball, are impressive these many years later. His stats have been eclipsed, and others came afterward to hit for a better batting average, more home runs, or more runs batted in, but his legacy has endured more than a century after his birth.

For those who want to be part of a team, or to be part of something bigger, look no further than Lou Gehrig. His enduring legacy shines to this day. For those who think than being part of the team may hold you back, or to see your efforts glossed over, fear not. As a hiring manager, a critical trait is to fit in well with the team. If you work hard, and put the team first, your efforts will be recognized. You can still shine as a valued employee, yet still be a team player. Those who think they need to be better than everyone else, or work to elevate their stature at the expense of others will only hurt their own career and reputation. Lou Gehrig was voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1939, and was voted onto the “All Century” team in 1999. Not bad for a man who was all about putting the team first.

Records (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Gehrig)

MLB Records
Accomplishment Record
Most consecutive seasons with 120+ RBIs 8 (1927–1934)
Most runs batted in (RBI) by a first baseman 1,995
Most runs scored by a first baseman 1,888
Highest on-base percentage by a first baseman .447
Most walks by a first baseman 1,508
Highest slugging percentage by a first baseman .632
Most extra base hits by a first baseman 1,190
Single–season
Most runs batted-in by a first baseman 184 (1931)
Most runs scored by a first baseman 167 (1936)
Highest slugging percentage by a first baseman .765 (1927)
Extra-base hits by a first baseman 117 (1927)
Most total bases by a first baseman 447 (1927)
 
Most home runs[a] 4
  1. The record is held with 15 other players

Awards and honors

Award/Honor # of Times Dates
American League All-Star 7 1933–1939
American League MVP 2 1927, 1936
The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award[80] 1955–present
Named starting first baseman on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team 1999
Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum 1939
World Series champion 6 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938
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