78 years ago Lou Gehrig stepped away from the game in an emotion-filled speech now called “The Luckiest Man on the face of the earth”. Lou Gehrig nicknamed the Iron Horse had played in 2130 consecutive games and on May 2nd, 1939 he sat himself down and never played another game in the majors again. Over his career, Lou Gehrig averaged .340 and hit 493 HR’s over 14 seasons. He won 6 World Series with the Yankees and was named MVP of the league twice.
Lou Gehrig meant a lot to the league as he was the consummate professional and was a true class act. He is one of the few people who was ever inducted into the hall of fame before the 5-year waiting period was up. He was elected to the hall of fame in 1939 by a special election. He is also the first MLB player to ever have his number retired. I grew up hating the Yankees and still do to this day but I will tell you this I respect the hell out of Lou Gehrig. He ended his career with a .991 Fielding percentage over his 2137 game career the man made only 193 Errors while recording 19510 put outs.
Posthumously he was named the greatest First baseman of all time in 1969 by the Baseball Writers of America. In 1999 he was the leading vote-getter for Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team which was voted on by the fans. He has a monument in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium that was first dedicated to the team in 1941. In addition, every year since 1955 MLB has awarded the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award which is awarded to the MLB player who best exhibits his integrity and character. July 4th, 1939 Lou Gehrig gave his Farewell Speech and to this day I still get choked up listening to it. Here is the speech in its entirety.
- 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.” Here is a link for the speech Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth.
In addition to that, he was presented a silver trophy from his teammates and on that trophy was a poem from John Kieran a writer from the New York Times. Here is the poem that was on the trophy. You can also view the trophy at Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- We’ve been to the wars together;
We took our foes as they came;
And always you were the leader,
And ever you played the game.Idol of cheering millions,
Records are yours by sheaves;
Iron of frame they hailed you
Decked you with laurel leaves.But higher than that we hold you,
We who have known you best;
Knowing the way you came through
Every human test.Let this be a silent token
Of lasting Friendship’s gleam,
And all that we’ve left unspoken;
Your Pals of the Yankees Team