Today is July 4th, 2023, 84 years ago, on July 4th, 1939, one of the most famous speeches occurred in baseball history.
A tearful Lou Gehrig stepped up to a microphone at the home plate of a packed Yankee Stadium.
Up to this point Gehrig put up a .143 season through eight games, prior to his retirement. It was seen as just part of a very fast and steep decline of his stats. In 1938 he hit .295 compared to his .351 average in ‘37 where he played in the same amount of games, a league leading 157.
Gehrig’s swing and overall athletic ability was noticeably different, from both fans and inside New York’s clubhouse. The former MVP looked to be a shell of his former self, but what many didn’t know was that he was facing something bigger than the game of baseball, he was in the game of life.
Lou Gehrig had ALS, now better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a nervous system disease that affects both the brain and spinal cord.
The public found out Gehrig’s diagnosis on June 19th, 1939. Two days later, the New York Yankees announced the retirement of “the Iron Horse.”
On July 4th of the same year Lou Gehrig said his final farewell to the game: “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
New York would retire Gehrig’s No.4 jersey, it would be the first time in MLB history that a jersey would be retired.