Lou Gerhig was born on June 19, 1903.
It’s been almost 75 years since Gerhig’s death but he is still associated as a man of dignity.
He hit 493 homers, knocked in 1,990 runs, and sported a .340 batting average. His 184 RBI’s in one season is an American League record. His 23 grand slams is a major league record. He played 13 consecutive seasons with 100 RBI and 100 runs scored. He had 200 hits and 100 walks in the same season seven times. There were two MVPs and a Triple Crown. And, there were 12 consecutive seasons of hitting .300, 10 seasons of at least 30 homers, an average of 153 RBI’s over an 11-year stretch, and a .632 lifetime slugging percentage.
He was known as the “Iron Horse” because of his durability – having played in 2,130 consecutive games (a record only recently shattered by Cal Ripken).
It, of course, ironic that this hero of the baseball diamond who was so strong on the field was so tragically felled at such an early age (He died in 1941 at age 37).
Many today only know of Lou Gerhig because of the illness named after him and for the “speech” he made on a day that honored him.
It was July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium, a little more than two months after he played his final game, less than a month after he had learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There was Gehrig, surrounded by his teammates from the 1927 and 1939 Yankees, taking his cut at the microphone.Shaking with emotion, he fought back tears as he kept his eyes focused on the ground. For a moment it looked as if Gehrig wouldn’t make it to the plate. But manager Joe McCarthy whispered a few words to his favorite player, and Gehrig regained his composure. In a moment later captured by the Hollywood film “The Pride of the Yankees,” starring Gary Cooper, Gehrig delivered an emotional farewell address, speaking slowly and stressing the appreciation he felt for all that was being done for him.”For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got,” he told the hushed crowd. “Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
In a world today that too often disappoints, it is we who are lucky to have Lou Gehrig as an exanple of class and dignity.