“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 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.
Look at those grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate 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, 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.”
Lou Gehrig - July 4, 1939, at his last appearance at Yankee Stadium
Lou Gehrig was arguably the greatest first baseman in the history of major league baseball. Two weeks earlier, on his 36th birthday, extensive testing revealed that his rapid and mysterious loss of strength that two months earlier had ended his career was due to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The end of his career was sudden. He showed up in camp for the 1939 season and his power, speed and speed were gone. He was playing poorly once the season started. The previous year, even though he was actually suffering from the effects of the disease, he was still performing at a strong level. When he benched himself on May 2, 1939, after having played in 2,130 consecutive games, the entire nation was shocked. The number 2,130 was considered one of the greatest records in sports until Cal Ripken Jr. broke it 56 years later. Two weeks before the speech he was told that the pace his body was deteriorated would quicken. Paralysis would come soon. And after that, he would have difficulty swallowing, and then be unable to talk. But, perhaps even more cruelly, his brain would be fully functional and he would be aware of everything until the end, which came less than two years later, two weeks before he was to turn 38. That moment is often considered as one of the most memorable moments in baseball history. The second sentence may be the most famous quote in American sports history. A few years later, he was played by Gary Cooper in the movie “Pride of the Yankees,” which received 11 Academy Award nominations and is considered one of the greatest sports movies ever made. The movie ends with the second sentence of that speech, a quote which by that point had transcended sports and is still considered among the most iconic movie quotes in the history of U.S. Cinemas. From that point on, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis has been known as the Lou Gehrig disease.