06/18/2003 3:33 PM ET
Lou Gehrig's famous speech
On July 4, 1939, the New York Yankees held "Lou Gehrig Day" at Yankee Stadium. Gehrig had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) just two weeks earlier. With more than 62,000 fans in attendance, the Iron Horse took the microphone for what would become one of the most memorable moments in baseball history.
At the close of Gehrig's emotional speech, Babe Ruth walked up, put his arm around his former teammate and spoke in his ear the first words they had shared since 1934. Gehrig was elected to the Hall of Fame that December. He died in 1941, at age 37.
"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 may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for."
Three years after Lou Gehrig made that farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, Gary Cooper gave his rendition of it in the movie, "Pride of the Yankees." Hollywood mogul Sam Goldwyn had resisted the idea of a movie about a ballplayer, and evidently some tweaking had to be done on the speech to make it more appealing at the theater.
Here is the text of the movie version, with such terms as "Murderers Row" and "Bronx Bombers" added for extra effect:
"I have been walking onto ballfields for 16 years, and I've never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. I have had the great honor to have played with these great veteran ballplayers on my left -- Murderers Row, our championship team of 1927. I have had the further honor living and playing with these men on my right -- the Bronx Bombers, the Yankees of today.
"I have been given fame and undeserved praise by the boys up there behind the wire, my friends, the sports writers. I have worked under the two greatest managers of all time, Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy.
"I have a mother and father who fought to give me health and a solid background in my youth. I have a wife, a companion for life, who has shown me more courage than I ever knew.
"People all say that I've had a bad break. But today . . . today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.