ALS Community Celebrates 75th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s Speech

 

75 years ago, New-York Yankee’s star player, Lou Gehrig, stood in front of 62,000 fans and spoke one of the most poignant speeches in the history of sports.

“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”

The Iron Horse forced back tears as he announced his fatal diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, now known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He died two years later, just days short of his 38th birthday. 75 years later, there is still no cure, nor any effective treatment.  The impact of the disease is devastating physically, emotionally and financially not only for the afflicted person but for family members as well during and after the illness for the ones left behind.

Today, Gehrig remains an inspiration, a source of strength, humility and courage for the thousands of Canadians facing ALS.

Farewell Speech

Lou Gehrig’s diagnosis was made public on June 19, 1939, two days before he announced his retirement. No one remained unmoved by the news.

On July 4th, 1939, in front of 61,808 people including many dignitaries and sports celebrities, Gehrig’s voice sounded strained as he spoke the following words:

“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”

Who was Lou Gehrig?

Lou Gehrig was born on June 19, 1903 to a family of modest means. His mother did housekeeping and his father worked in the metal industry. At 17 years old, he was already a prominent baseball player but he entered Columbia with a football scholarship. He got banned from playing during his first year after playing professional baseball over the summer under an alias. In 1923, he joined his University’s baseball team and got recruited by the Yankees the same year as a pinch hitter. He officially became a Yankee in 1925 and didn’t leave the playing field until 1939..

Gehrig’s durability and resilience got him the nickname of Iron horse. In fact, he set a record for the longest consecutive game streak (2,130) despite many injuries and broken bones. He maintained statistics significantly above average for 12 years. In 1932, he became the first baseball player of the 20th century to hit four home runs in a game. To know more about his achievements, visit his website by clicking here.

His performances began to falter in 1938. Gehrig felt more tired and his statistics were notably lower than the previous season, although they remained above average. Gradually, Gehrig faced difficulties holding the bat. May 2nd, 1939 marks the end of his consecutive streak. He had just received his ALS diagnosis and would never play baseball again.

New York Yankees announced Gehrig’s retirement on June 21st 1939, two weeks prior to “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day”, held on July 4th, 1939, when he bid farewell.

Lou Gehrig died on June 2nd, 1941 and left behind his wife Eleanor who dedicated the rest of her life to supporting ALS research.

For more information on Lou Gehrig, visit his website at: www.lougehrig.com

How you can help

75 years ago, Lou Gehrig brought the first major public awareness to ALS. Raising awareness is a crucial step in generating support for our efforts to fund research and families for today’s faces of ALS. Please help us carry on his legacy by helping us raise awareness during ALS Awareness Month and during the  July 4th week by sharing your story with your local newspaper, by creating an event in your area or by signing up for the walks. Every action counts to have our voices heard!

 

75 later, there is still no cure, no effective treatment, please join our team by volunteering, getting involved in our events or by making a donation. Together we will strike out Lou Gehrig’s Disease!

 

 

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