Jeffrey Quick doesn't have any family ties to legendary Yankees ballplayer Lou Gehrig. But his collection of mementos from Gehrig's life — a glove and a grade-school autograph book among them — are the kinds of things passed down from one generation to the next. And that's how Quick got them. Gehrig's mother, Christina, left them to Quick's mother, back in 1954.
As Quick tells All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris, his mother, Ruth Quick, briefly dated Lou Gehrig, back when he was a single superstar in New York.
"From what I understand, she did date him some," Quick says. The relationship didn't last, but Ruth Quick made an impression on Lou's mother.
"Regardless of what happened with my mom and Lou, there was a lasting, and I'll say even perhaps a loving relationship between my Mom and Christina," Quick says.
Jeffrey Quick, 69, was born after Gehrig's death of ALS. And to celebrate his birth, Christina Gehrig brought the Quick family a glove — one that had been autographed by many of her son's teammates.
As Quick's family photos show, he and his parents spent lots of time with Gehrig's parents. And in the end, Christina Gehrig — or "Mom," as Quick says everyone called her — gave Quick's mother a pile of Lou Gehrig sports artifacts that has collectors in a tizzy. Included are at least one old uniform with the iconic number 4 on the jersey, and a baseball signed by the 1926 Yankees.
Now Quick is auctioning off much of his rare Lou Gehrig memorabilia, as The New York Times reported today. But the glove given to his parents by "Mom" Gehrig after his birth is not included.
The Times also relayed a possible explanation for Lou Gehrig's mother splitting her estate between Ruth Quick and another woman — and leaving nothing for Gehrig's wife. "Christina Gehrig's daughter-in-law was still alive," writes Peter Applebome, "but they feuded for years, most bitterly over Lou Gehrig's will, so it was not surprising that with her only son dead and no grandchildren, she gave her estate to someone else."
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
In the New York Times this morning, we read a story about love and baseball. We'll begin with the ending: a man, named Jeffrey Quick, age 69, is putting up for auction a small collection of memorabilia. The items, including an old, gray uniform, a wallet, and a signed baseball, come from one of the game's greatest and most beloved players: Lou Gehrig. But it's how these items came into Mr. Quick's family more than half a century ago that gets us to the heart of the matter. And we're joined now by Jeffrey Quick, who lives in New Jersey. Welcome to the program, Mr. Quick.
JEFFREY QUICK: Thank you.
NORRIS: First, I want you to tell me about your mother and how she met Lou Gehrig.
QUICK: She was introduced by a mutual friend of the family, introduced her either to Lou or Lou's parents, Mom and Pop Gehrig, Christina Gehrig, and everyone knew here as Mom Gehrig.
NORRIS: And how would you characterize their relationship? How did they get to know one another?
QUICK: Well, she, from what I understand, she did date him some. She never spoke that much about it. I don't really have a lot of detail about what they did when they were dating. My mom was pretty young at the time. Regardless of what happened with my mom and Lou, there was a lasting, and I would say even, perhaps a loving relationship between my mom and his family.
NORRIS: Can I ask you about that? Because Lou Gehrig's mother, in particular, was said to have a say sometimes in the people that Lou Gehrig would bring home and decide to date. He was a bit shy with the ladies. He lived with his mother until he was 30 years, and she sometimes vetoed the few women that he did bring home. Do you know if she initially vetoed your mother when they started dating?
QUICK: It could have been vetoed by Mom. Perhaps Mom Gehrig thought just not right for marrying my son but I really like this person, 'cause she obviously liked my mom because the relationship lasted for years and years. It's a mystery and it will forever remain a mystery because, as I mentioned, my mom just never disclosed that much about that aspect of a relationship with the Gehrig family - that is, between my mother and Lou.
NORRIS: So, your family had a longstanding relationship with the Gehrig family and the New York Times in its coverage today has a photograph of you. You were born after Lou Gehrig had died. But in this photograph, you're four, you're playing in a washtub and Christina Gehrig, Mom Gehrig, is looking on and she's smiling at you. And she's smiling, I mean, from the viewer's perspective, she looks like she's smiling at you like you're the grandchild that she never had.
QUICK: It probably was a bond there. Perhaps she did look at like that, as the grandchild she never had. That picture, by the way, was taken up in Bushkill, Pennsylvania, just on the banks of the Delaware River. My mom and dad had a very small vacation place there. It was pretty rustic.
NORRIS: So, Mr. Quick, let's talk about this memorabilia. How was it then that it passed on to your family?
QUICK: Some of it may have even passed to my mom before Mom Gehrig passed away. But when she passed away in the early 1950s, her estate was left to my mom and one other lady.
NORRIS: Were there any letters or anything else that tell us a bit more about Lou Gehrig the man?
QUICK: I have a Christmas card that he sent to my mom. It was just, as I recall, it was just signed. I'm guessing if there were letters - and there probably were some types of communications. For whatever reason, I don't know whether my mom destroyed them, but they didn't survive. And it is a little bit consistent with her not having said much at least about, you know, her relationship with him.
NORRIS: Well, Mr. Quick, it's been a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks so much for sharing your memories and telling us more about this memorabilia.
QUICK: Well, it's my pleasure and I'm happy to be on the program.
NORRIS: We've been talking to Jeffrey Quick. He's putting up for auction a small but valuable collection of items that Lou Gehrig's mother, Christina Gehrig, gave to his mother Ruth. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.