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Words | Gehrig’s Farewell

October 9, 2012
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Gehrig on July 4, 1939 (NY Times)

On June 21, 1939 the Yankees announced Lou Gehrig’s retirement as his mysterious illness progressively worsened.  To celebrate their fallen leader, Lou Gehrig Day was held at Yankee Stadium on July 4th in front of over 61,000 fans.  There was an outpouring of admiration and love for the Yankees’ humble 1st baseman, who for the previous 16 years had been the heart of their ballclub.  As Gehrig accepted various plaques and trophies, the man known as the Iron Horse had to immediately set them on the ground because he no longer had the strength to hold them.  The Yankees also retired his #4 that afternoon, the first such event in professional sports history.

When Gehrig’s turn at the microphone came, he delivered, in his frail state, one of the most transcendent speeches in history, an oration that still echoes out of the past with character and dignity.  Instead of expressing anger, or discouragement, Gehrig’s words rang with hope and thankfulness, which is why they are still revered today.

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? 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 may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.

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