Lou Gehrig’s Farewell to Baseball

Speaker: Lou Gehrig
Delivered On: 7/4/1939
Place: Yankee Stadium, New York
Subject: Lou Gehrig’s Disease, baseball

Audio/Video Available:

Description: On July 4, 1939, Yankee Stadium held the first Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. They
had a special celebration in his honor; he gave his official “farewell” speech.
After ending his streak of more than 2000 consecutive games played, Gehrig announced
he would no longer be playing the game. He stated that, although many people felt
sorry for him and believed he caught “a bad break,” he still considered himself
“the luckiest man alive.” He refused to feel sorry for himself, or to allow others
to feel sorry for him. He highlighted the best points of his career and expressed
gratitude for the opportunity to work with as many amazing people as he did. Here,
we’re presenting the video of what many consider to be the most famous speech in
all of baseball’s history.

Narrator: On May 2nd, 1939 after playing in 2130 straight games the Iron Horse,
Lou Gehrig, benches himself. Lou’s statistics through April are the worst of this
career. He has just 1 RBI and a 143 batting average. Two weeks after his benching,
Gehrig is diagnosed with the fatal disease, ALS, and is given 3 years to live. Upon
hearing the news, The Yankees schedule Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day for July 4th.
Sports writer, Shirley Povich recalls the scene.

Shirley Povich: The day was advertised as a tribute to Lou and was such an outpouring
of fans that every seat of Yankee Stadium was filled. And an official after official
and player after player of the Yankees, came along and spoke into the microphone
and spoke of the great affection for Lou and what he meant to them and Lou was standing
by, uh, uh, actually stooped as he was. Uh, uh, I saw that day, if you talk about
sadness, in any gathering, that’s the day I saw photographers cry.

Lou Gehrig: Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
[crowd clapping] And I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful
lot to live for. Thank you.

Narrator: Two years after his speech at age 37, Gehrig succumbs to his illness.
His time was cut short, but his legacy will live forever.

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