Ray Robinson, Who Wrote of Gehrig the Man, Dies at 96

by: DANIEL E. SLOTNIK NOV. 9, 2017

Ray Robinson, a longtime magazine editor who wrote well-received biographies of baseball stars from his youth like Christy Mathewson and Lou Gehrig, died on Nov. 1 in Manhattan. He was 96.

His daughter, Nancy Miringoff, said he died a day after having a stroke.

For many years Mr. Robinson made a living as an editor at magazines like Seventeen and Good Housekeeping, but baseball and other sports were always his passion. Though he was never a professional baseball reporter, his life was so infused with the game that he could, and did, more than hold his own in discussions about the sport.

His biographies include “Matty, an American Hero: Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants” (1994), about the star pitcher of the early 20th century, and “Rockne of Notre Dame: The Making of a Football Legend” (1999), about the celebrated Notre Dame football coach.

His sportswriting, which mixed careful research with personal recollections, was more realistic than reverential.

“He could be trusted not to exaggerate a story or a fact; it was what it was, and you could trust Ray’s memory,” Marty Appel, the author of “Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees From Before the Babe to After the Boss” (2012) and other baseball books, said in an interview on Tuesday.

One of Mr. Robinson’s favorite players, and subjects, was Gehrig, the Hall of Fame Yankee first baseman who long held the record for consecutive games played, with 2,130, and who died at 37 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative ailment now widely known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In many articles and in the book “Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig in His Time” (1990), Mr. Robinson portrayed the famously humble and hard-working Gehrig as a human being instead of the mythical hero many see him as, without hiding his own reverence.

Mr. Robinson at Magazine Management, where he worked as an editor, in the 1950s.
“Suited up, Gehrig looked bovine, unathletic,” Mr. Robinson wrote. “His appearance earned him the uncomely nickname of ‘Biscuit Pants.’ But shouldn’t one win points for modesty, decency and determination? I thought so, and of all the Yankees, it was Lou I cherished the most.”

One undeniably superhuman moment of Gehrig’s career was his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939. Mr. Robinson, who was there and called the speech “baseball’s Gettysburg Address,” told The Daily News in 2014 that the sound system made it hard to make out all of Gehrig’s words, but that an almost religious solemnity descended over the stadium as Gehrig spoke.

“I have no way of knowing if 60,000 people were crying,” he said, “but I had tears in my eyes.”

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