Great Baseball Moments- Lou Gehrig’s ‘Luckiest Man Alive’ Speech. July 4, 1939.
In late 1938 Lou Gehrig’s baseball skills started to deteriorate. Some thought that it was just a slump he was going through or that he was just becoming an aging ballplayer. In the spring of 1939 his fall started to become startling. Gehrig who had been possibly the greatest ballplayer of the 1930’s- wasn’t just playing poorly but seemed to be a hazard to himself on the ball field. He was stumbling and falling, At the plate he seemed to have no power. Finally on May 2 in Detroit, Gehrig took himself out of the line-up. He had played a remarkable 2130 consecutive games. He went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for testing- and the results were tragic- ALS- which is now commonly named after the great Gehrig- Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Not only was his baseball career over- but the diagnosis was a death sentence.
Two months later- on July 4, 1939 at Yankee Stadium they held a Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. They filled Yankee Stadium- 61,808 fans. Gehrig who was not known for his talking- would give without question the greatest and most famous speech in sports history.
“For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
“When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such a fine looking men as they’re standing in uniform in this ballpark today? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.
“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.
“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
Such a good guy…I think he worked for the city after he retired until he died. I remember Gary Cooper delivering a speech in the movie…that was my first exposure.