On June 2, 1925, New York Yankees manager Miller Huggins replaced first baseman Wally Pipp with young Lou Gehrig, the pride of Columbia University. Gehrig would go on to play in every Yankee game, every season through April 30, 1939. His record of 2130 consecutive games, played through illness, injury, and even bone fractures, would remain untouched until Cal Ripkin’s monumental career mark surpassed him in 1995. In 1939, Lou Gehrig was found to have been stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known ever after as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
In December of 1939, in a special election, Gehrig was unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame at the age of 36, the youngest player ever elected. He passed away on June 2, 1941, the anniversary of the beginning of his remarkable streak.
From his speech on July 4, 1939, “Lou Gehrig Day,” at Yankee Stadium:
“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
Courtesy of Barry L. Pinsky, CFP®, ChFC, CLU in Encino, CA
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