Saturday, July 4, 2009

"The luckiest man ... "

Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, delivered 70 years ago today, will be remembered across major league ballparks this afternoon and evening as MLB helps promote awareness for ALS, which is known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."

Baseball will also give Gehrig another day in the sun, which is great. To most fans, Gehrig is a name from the past, linked more to his record for consecutive games, since broken by Cal Ripken Jr., than anything else.
Gehrig was one of the best to ever play the game. Still, it is his death that keeps his memory alive.

Fans have come to poke fun at the famous line, adding their own echoes ... "Today (today), I consider myself (consider myself), the luckiest man (man) on the face of the earth (on the face of the earth.)"

I've heard grooms say this at their wedding. I was going to, but those plans were nixed.

You'll find it during a scene of "Sleepless in Seattle."

Anyway, the thing is, Gehrig didn't know he was dying. That bit of news was kept from him. So the scene in "Pride of the Yankees," where Lou asks the doctor, "Is it three strikes, Doc?" Great line. Never happened.

Still, "Pride of the Yankees" is one of the best baseball movies ever.

Lou is my all-time favorite Yankee, more so than Babe Ruth. Lou had one of the greatest careers in baseball history and was happy to play in the shadow of Ruth.

He set the the record for consecutive games played, because that's what did during his era: You played every day.

And, of course, he died a hero's death.

I just bought a figurine a few weeks ago of Lou, hat in hand, standing at the microphone while he delivers his farewell speech. It will have a prominent display in my den as soon as I clean out my den.

Here is a link to the Lou Gehrig web site:

Here is a link to a clip of his speech:

Here is a link to Gary Cooper in "Pride of the Yankees:"

Here is Lou's speech ...

"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."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Long live the Iron Horse.