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Lou Gehrig honored... "The luckiest man..."
Item # 584885
July 5, 1939
THE TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL, Kansas, July 5, 1939
* Lou Gehrig day at Yankee Stadium
* New York Yankees
This 12 page newspaper has a one column heading on page 8: "Senators Divide Pair With Yankees; 61,808 See Frays"
This was Lou Gehrig day at Yankee Stadium in which he gave his famous "I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth..." speech. Unfortunately the only text within this article just mentions in was Lou Gehrig day and nothing more (see images).
Other news, sports and advertisements of the day included. This issue has some spine wear, but is otherwise in good condition.
wikipedia notes: On June 21, the New York Yankees announced Gehrig's retirement and proclaimed July 4, 1939, "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day" at Yankee Stadium. Between games of the Independence Day doubleheader against the Washington Senators, the poignant ceremonies were held on the diamond. In its coverage the following day, The New York Times said it was "Perhaps as colorful and dramatic a pageant as ever was enacted on a baseball field [as] 61,808 fans thundered a hail and farewell". Dignitaries extolled the dying slugger and the members of the 1927 Yankees World Championship team, known as "Murderer's Row", attended the ceremonies. New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia called Gehrig "the greatest prototype of good sportsmanship and citizenship" and Postmaster General James Farley concluded his speech by predicting, "For generations to come, boys who play baseball will point with pride to your record."
Yankees Manager Joe McCarthy, struggling to control his emotions, then spoke of Lou Gehrig, with whom there was a close, almost father and son-like bond. After describing Gehrig as "the finest example of a ballplayer, sportsman, and citizen that baseball has ever known", McCarthy could stand it no longer. Turning tearfully to Gehrig, the manager said, "Lou, what else can I say except that it was a sad day in the life of everybody who knew you when you came into my hotel room that day in Detroit and told me you were quitting as a ballplayer because you felt yourself a hindrance to the team. My God, man, you were never that."
The Yankees retired Gehrig's uniform number "4", making him the first player in Major League Baseball history to be accorded that honor. Gehrig was given many gifts, commemorative plaques, and trophies. Some came from VIPs; others came from the stadium's groundskeepers and janitorial staff. Footage of the ceremonies shows Gehrig being handed various gifts, and immediately setting them down on the ground, because he no longer had the arm strength to hold them. The Yankees gave him a silver trophy with their signatures engraved on it. Inscribed on the front was a special poem written by The New York Times writer John Kieran. The trophy cost only about $5, but it became one of Gehrig's most prized possessions. It is currently on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
After the presentations and remarks by Babe Ruth, Gehrig addressed the crowd:
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.
— Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939
The crowd stood and applauded for almost two minutes. Gehrig was visibly shaken as he stepped away from the microphone, and wiped the tears away from his face with his handkerchief. Babe Ruth came over and hugged him as a band played "I Love You Truly" and the crowd chanted "We love you, Lou." The New York Times account the following day called it "one of the most touching scenes ever witnessed on a ball field", that made even hard-boiled reporters "swallow hard."
In December 1939, Lou Gehrig was elected unanimously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in a special election by the Baseball Writers Association, waiving the waiting period normally required after a ballplayer's retirement. At age 36, he was the youngest player to be so honored.
Category: The 20th Century