Here’s another thing I found while researching something else, as was the case with the Eleanor Engle post below; in fact, I was researching the same topic when I found both of these, a topic not really related to either one. That’s why I love looking for things, because you never know what you’ll find.
The photo and cutline above come from the November 1925 issue of Golf Illustrated, but the most through account of the unusual event that produced this picture is the December 1925 issue of Popular Science — yes, Popular Science. It has details of the match at the Belleclaire Country Cluib (RIP) in Bayside, Queens, that October involving: Lou Gehrig, who had just finished his first full season with the New York Yankees; Leo Diegel, who had won his second Canadian Open that year and would go on to win 30 PGA Tour events, including two PGA Championships; Paul Crouch, described as “one of America’s best archers”; and 18-year-old Edwin Harkins, “well-known fisherman and flycaster.”
Each participant used the tools of his trade to get around nine holes, although Diegel would be the only one actually using any holes. According to a brief account of the event in TIME magazine, Gehrig’s goal for each hole was to throw a ball and “hit a tub as wide as a man’s chest”; Crouch’s was to “hit a 12-inch target”; and Harkins’ was “drop his bait in the a yard-wide hoop.” Each would have to advance to his destination by a series of throws, casts, arches (what do you call it when you shoot an arrow?) or, in Diegel’s case, conventional golf swings.
The winner — to the surprise of Popular Science — was Gehrig, who “shot” (or threw) a 32. Diegel and Crouch tied for second at 33, while poor Harkins was well behind at 45.
Popular Science noted Gehrig was at a disadvantage in distance. There had been documented instances of someone hitting a golf ball or shooting an arrow more than 300 yards, while no one had ever thrown a baseball even half that far. (Poor Harkins; the record at that point for the longest cast with the type of light trout rod he used was less than 44 yards.) Diegel and Crouch reportedly “out-drive” Gehrig almost three to one.
But what Gehrig lacked in distance with his throwing, he made up for in accuracy. Or, as Popular Science put it, “Gehrig’s never-failing marksmanship sufficed to counterbalance the longer shots made by golfer and archer.”
Gehrig’s long practice at putting a ball where he wanted it to go served him in good stead. His “approach throws” landed dead to the pin. When he attempted to hole out, he tossed the ball to the mark without a miss.
Popular Science also pointed out that Gehrig had an advantage over Diegel in that hazards were not hazardous to him: “since he could pick up the ball from any lie, traps did not cause him the trouble that a golfer experiences.”
According to TIME, Gehrig’s prize for winning the match was a golden wrist watch. According to Robert Greenberger’s 2004 biography “Lou Gehrig,” in which the photo at left appears (notice Lou golfed lefthanded just as he batted and threw), Gehrig’s reward was $250, but it doesn’t list a source for that. Greenberger also wrote the stunt was repeated in 1927, with Gehrig finishing second, but I have not found any other account of that event (but I haven’t looked very hard).
Seriously…with all the wacky Superstars TV competitions of the ’70s and the explosion of sports cable channels today, how is it nobody has tried to duplicate this multi-sport form of “golf”? Who wouldn’t watch this? Somebody should try to do this with Tiger Woods doing all four forms. Tiger Woods shooting a bow and arrow: that’s good TV!