Lou Gehrig was one of the 5-10 greatest baseball players in Major League history. He was a career .340/.447/.632 hitter with 493 career homers, 1995 RBIs, and 102 career steals. Gehrig was consistently lauded for his hard play, determination to win, and his will to play in every game he could. He played into 2,130 straight games, which has only been surpassed by Cal Ripken Jr. and will probably never be surpassed again. Gehrig was remarkably consistent too. He hit at least .300 every season from 1926 until 1937, hitting over .350 6 separate times in that span. The Iron Horse also had 13 straight seasons with at least 100 RBI, which has only been done by two other players, Jimmy Foxx and Alex Rodriguez. He still holds the American League single season record for RBI, with 184 in a season during his remarkable 1931 campaign. He won 2 MVPs, in 1927 and in 1936, and that ’27 season may be the greatest ever played in baseball history. Gehrig hit .373/.474/.765 with 47 homers, 175 RBI, 52 doubles, 10 steals, 218 hits, 149 runs, and 109 walks to only 84 strikeouts.
Gehrig sadly passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is now known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS causes rapid paralysis, degenerates muscle mass, and causes difficulty swallowing. Gehrig was diagnosed June 19, 1939 and retired from baseball 2 weeks later, on July 4th, 1939. The Yankees threw him a stirring tribute with speeches by long-time manager and father-figure Joe McCarthy, who was teary-eyed. Babe Ruth spoke and also welled up. Then Lou Gehrig spoke and I don’t think anything else needs to be said, because nothing could possibly be more fitting than this:
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.