From The Trunk
Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, The Farewell Speech
It was Yankees versus Senators on July 4, 1939, a
doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Those in attendance numbered 61,808,
and most of them had showed up to honor Lou Gehrig in a ceremony
Players, officials, writers and employees at the park out-did
themselves with gifts for the Iron Horse. A parade launched the
40-minute ceremony as the Seventh Regiment Band escorted Babe Ruth,
Waite Hoyt, Bob Meusel, Herb Pennock, Joe Dugan, Tony Lazzeri, Mark
Koenig, Benny Bengough, Wally Schang, Everett Scott, Wally Pipp,
George Pipgras and Bob Shawkey to the center field flagpole. A
banner was hoisted saluting the 1927 Yankees.
Then the group of former stars, all in street clothes, assembled
shoulder to shoulder near the pitcher's mound. Yankees and Senators
formed a semicircle around a microphone at home plate. "We want Lou,
we want Lou," the chant began. Led out of the dugout by Yankees
president Ed Barrow, Gehrig doffed his cap and fought back tears as
the crowd roared.
Sid Mercer, the Master of ceremonies, announced, "Ladies and
gentlemen, Lou Gehrig has asked me to thank you all for him. He is
too moved to speak."
"We want Lou! We want Lou!" the chant was a plea for Gehrig to
Coaxed by manager Joe McCarthy, Gehrig wiped his eyes, blew his
nose. On unsteady feet, he moved towards the microphone to speak the
speech he had written the night before.
"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
I 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 have considered it an honor to
have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest
empire, Ed Barrows? 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 groundskeeper and those boys
in white coats remember you with trophies, that's something. When
you have a father and mother 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 bad break, but I have an awful lot to
Until season's end "The Pride of the Yankees" was there with and for
his team. He spent every day on the bench and traveled with the
Yankees on road trips. He sat through all four of the 1939 World
On June 3, 1941 Lou Gehrig died at his home, 5204 Delafield Avenue,
in the Fieldston section of the Bronx He would have been 38 years
old on June 19.
Confined to his home for the last month of his life, he lost weight
steadily during his final weeks. It was reported that he was
twenty-five pounds under weight shortly before he died.
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
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