Lou Gehrig Delivers His "Luckiest Man" Farewell 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 the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans...
...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 on July 4, 1939
A native of New York City, he played for the New York Yankees until his career was cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), now commonly referred to in the United States as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Over a 15-season span between 1925 and 1939, he played in 2,130 consecutive games. On July 4, 1939, a dying man stood before over 60,000 people and told them he was the “luckiest man on the face of the earth” for being able to play in ballparks for 17 years, and recieve nothing but kindness and encouragement from his fans. Lou Gehrig became a symbol of what sports, and maybe life is all about. accepting your destiny, giving it your all, and enjoying every moment, good or ill.
On June 21, the New York Yankees announced Gehrig's retirement and proclaimed July 4, 1939, "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" at Yankee Stadium. Between games of the Independence Day doubleheader against the Washington Senators, the poignant ceremonies were held on the diamond. In its coverage the following day, The New York Times said it was "Perhaps as colorful and dramatic a pageant as ever was enacted on a baseball field [as] 61,808 fans thundered a hail and farewell". Dignitaries extolled the dying slugger and the members of the 1927 Yankees World Championship team, known as "Murderer's Row", attended the ceremonies. New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia called Gehrig "the greatest prototype of good sportsmanship and citizenship" and Postmaster General James Farley concluded his speech by predicting, "For generations to come, boys who play baseball will point with pride to your record."