The Luckiest Man on Earth
Just the other day, July 4th 2014 we not only celebrated the anniversary of the birth of our nation, but also the 75th Anniversary of the speech Lou Gehrig gave to fans, friends and teammates at Yankee Stadium.
As you might recall, Lou Gehrig, also known as The Iron Horse, was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. His record of 2,130 consecutive games played reigned for 46 years, until Cal Ripken broke it in September 1995. But in addition to Gerhig’s record number of consecutive games played, he finished with a career batting average of .340, an on-base percentage of .447, and a slugging percentage of .632, and he tallied 493 home runs and 1,995 runs batted in (RBIs). Gehrig was a seven-time All-Star and six-time World Series champion, he won the Triple Crown in 1934 and was twice named the American League’s (AL) Most Valuable Player. Gehrig was the first MLB player to have his uniform number retired, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, one year after retiring. He was also the first player selected to the Baseball All-Century Team, and is a member of Baseballs All-Time Team.
Gehrig’s career ended after his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disorder now commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease in North America. On June 19, 1939, which also happened to be Gehrig’s 36th birthday, the Mayo Clinic confirmed the diagnosis. On June 21, the Yankees announced his diagnosis and proclaimed July 4, 1939 as Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. With members of the 1927 World Series Team (also known as Murderers Row, and including Babe Ruth) present, with New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, among many other luminaries, Gerhig spoke:
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 the 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 that 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.
—Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939
Lou Gehrigh ESPN SportsCentury Greatest Athletes of All Time
Ironically, Gehrig was not known as a speaker, remaining reserved and humble his entire career. And not knowing what was going to happen at this hastily put together recognition for him, he didn’t even prepare a speech. But when Lou Gehrig did speak, in just a few words, he not only brought grown men to tears, but provided inspiration to millions since.
I am one of those people for whom Lou has provided inspiration. Even though I have been confronted with one problem after another (alcoholism, abandonment, health issues, depression, and financial distress), I know that my problems pale in comparison to others. My problems are insignificant compared to those of others. And my problems pale in comparison to the great blessings which I have received, especially those family. Yet I too consider myself the luckiest person on earth.
Thanks Lou Gehrig and God Bless All
*Statistics and other information documented and found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_GehrigShareby