75th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s ‘Luckiest Man’ Farewell Speech, “Yet Today I Consider Myself the Luckiest Man on the Face of This Earth.”
75 years later and Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech still brings chills and tears … “I may have been given a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”
It was July 4, 1939 as the New York Yankees honored Lou Gehrig between games of a doubleheader with the Washington Senators before a packed house at Yankee Stadium of 61,000. It was just two short months after the greatest first baseman in the history of baseball, Lou Gerhig, found out that ne suffered from ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, that had robbed the “Iron Horse” of his physical abilities. Gehrig was almost too choked up and emotional to speak following all the tributes; however, he did and the rest is forever history … “Yet Today I Consider Myself the Luckiest Man on the Face of This Earth.”
When the tributes were finished, the 36-year-old Gehrig nearly walked away. He had prepared remarks, but he wasn’t prepared for his own emotions. Naturally shy to begin with, he stared at the ground and wiped away tears with a handkerchief he kept in his back pocket. As fans shouted, “We want Lou!” Sid Mercer, the sportswriter who served as master of ceremonies, told the crowd that Larrupin’ Lou was too moved to speak.
But then McCarthy put his hand on Gehrig’s back and whispered in his ear, as if he were giving his first baseman some last-minute instructions before taking the field. With that, Gehrig approached the microphones, ran his right hand through his hair, took a deep breath and began to speak without notes:
Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Address:
“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 might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”
- Lou Gehrig
The “Iron Horse” would die two years later.
Lou Gehrig ESPN Sports Century Documentary