Henry Louis "Buster" Gehrig and commonly known as Lou Gehrig (1903 – 1941) was an American baseball first baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees, from 1923 to 1939. Gehrig was known for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability, earning him his nickname "The Iron Horse". It was therefore all the more tragic and a shock to the public that he was taken out of the game by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable neuromuscular disorder now commonly referred to in North America as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The disease forced him to retire at age 36 and was the cause of his death two years later. The sadness of his farewell from baseball was capped off by his iconic 1939 "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech at Yankee Stadium. At a time when he had every reason to be bitter or depressed, he spoke of the reverse . . .
Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a 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 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 the next nine 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 against her own daughter, that’s something. When you have a father and 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 had a tough break – but I have an awful lot to live for!
Lou and Eleanor Gehrig pose on the Liner Empress of Japan in Oct. 1934.