One day, back in the late 1980s, when I was a newspaper editor, I got a phone call from a New Rochelle woman who told me about Lou Gehrig, the Yankee slugger who had lived in New Rochelle during the bulk of his great career.
Gehrig liked hanging out at the boatyard and before spring training would help move the heavy Hudson Park swim floats into place. Naturally shy yet far more accessible than today’s multimillionaire players, he made friends with the city workers — one of whom was this woman’s husband.
The woman said Gehrig gave her husband one of his Yankee uniforms as a gift. She had no particular love for baseball, but even after her husband died, she dutifully kept Gehrig’s shirt and pants tucked away in mothballs. Finally, she decided to clean out her closet, and among the things she tossed was Gehrig’s uniform.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her what a mistake that was, though I think she sensed it. Two years ago, a game-used jersey — no pants, just the jersey! — from Gehrig’s last great season, 1937, sold at auction for $2.58 million.
That’s crazy money.
But forget all that. Jon and Ali Credendino have none of the stuff prized by memorabilia collectors. What they do have can’t be valued in cold cash so much as measured in pride, patience, and honest hard work, which happen to be some of the finer qualities imbued in Gehrig himself. Looking at it that way, the Credendinos may possess the finest piece of Lou Gehrig memorabilia of all: his New Rochelle house at 9 Meadow Lane.
Gehrig bought the Colonial-style house for his German immigrant parents in 1927, when he was an established star, batting cleanup behind Babe Ruth in the legendary Yankees’ Murderers’ Row. Built on a prim, slightly elevated corner lot in 1895, the house was a Christmas gift to Gehrig’s mother. Showing it to her was “the proudest day of my life,” Gehrig said.
He lived there with his mother and father for several years, until he got married and moved to an apartment at 5 Circuit Road, a short distance away.
Inexplicably, Gehrig’s parents lost the house to foreclosure in 1937. The house changed owners a few times and was rented out. It eventually fell into disrepair, and by 2017 was in pretty rough condition — a domicile fit for freeloading squirrels.
Here’s where the Credendinos, who have four young children, enter the picture. Jon is a skilled contractor, and they were in the market for a fixer-upper.
Plus, they were Yankee fans.
Jon’s mother, Anne Richards, jumped when she learned that the Gehrig house, in all its ruined glory, was for sale. Bingo. Perfect.
“Gehrig bought the Colonial-style house for his German immigrant parents in 1927, when he was an established star, batting cleanup behind Babe Ruth.”
“This is the house for you!” she said. “It’s got the history. You gotta move on it. You gotta make it happen.”
Ali looked at the house and was initially unimpressed. Nevertheless, they put in a bid but lost out in a short sale.
Jon picks up the story: “My wife and I decided to rent. Then, in early 2019, we were looking to buy again, and my mother came out of nowhere and said, ‘Hey, the Lou Gehrig house is back on the market. Go for it.’”
This time they got it, paying $582,000. They closed on June 1, 2019, and started renovating the next day, which coincidentally was also the date Gehrig played his first game in 1925 and the date he died in 1941 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 37.
It would take a small book to recount all the work the Credendinos have put into the house over the past two years. Of immediate importance was replacing the main sewer line to the house, which had been perforated in 16 places by the roots of 70-foot trees that were probably there when the Gehrigs moved in.
They expanded and renovated the kitchen. Stained-glass windows were restored. The driveway was repaired and widened. There was trim work and wood restoration. A second floor was added to the garage. They evicted the squirrels.
In the basement, they found an antique clawfoot tub, which they think Gehrig (or his doting mother) may have used to handwash his uniforms. Other than that, they have not uncovered any gloves or bats. What they do feel is Gehrig’s warm spirit.
When he officially retired from baseball, Gehrig, the man they called the Iron Horse, was wasting away from ALS — and yet he said, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Those words have echoed through the ages.
“There’s really good energy here,” Ali Credendino said. “We’re extremely lucky.”