Seventy-five years ago today, Lou Gehrig gave his famous speech at Yankee stadium.
Henry Louis Gehrig, a Manhattan native, was the son of German immigrants Heinrich and Christina. Born in 1901, Lou was the only one of Heinrich and Christina’s four children to survive infancy.
A family who lived well below poverty did not allow the struggles of life effect the way they raised their son. Lou was always pushed to do well in school and from an early age, it was clear that he was athletically gifted.
After graduating high school, Lou enrolled in Columbia University. It was there where his future started to mold. Lou played football and baseball for the Columbia Lions.
As a baseball player for Columbia he, as well as many others, started to see that he was something special. 75 years later, Columbia University’s website still talks about his hitting ability.
On the baseball diamond, he soon began to attract attention for his prodigious home runs; the two most talked about were an opposite-field shot into a second-story window of the Journalism School and another that landed across College Walk, then a through city street.
It was this reputation in college that earned him the nickname Columbia Lou.
It was 1923 when the New York Yankees took notice of the young man, signing him to his first major league contract. A $1,500 dollar bonus to play baseball full time. Knowing what we know now those were pennies for such a valuable player, but not to Lou. It was just what he needed to move his mother and father out of the inner city and into the suburbs.
It was not far into his major league career that Lou took over the starting first baseman role and started working toward the record.
2,130 consecutive games played. It was thought to be the most unbreakable record in major league baseball earned Lou the nickname the Iron Horse.
Lou was Mr. Dependable. He led the team in nearly every offensive statistical category throughout his playing career. He was a 2 time AL MVP, a triple crown winner, and won a batting title. Playing alongside Babe Ruth created the original bash brothers.
The 1927 Yankees earned themselves the nickname “Murderers Row” thanks to the 976 runs scored on 1644 hits. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were responsible for 107 home runs alone. To put that stat in perspective, the New York Giants were the only TEAM to hit more home runs than Ruth and Gehrig at 109.
Gehrig won 6 World Series with the Yankees.
During the 1938 season, Lou’s numbers began to slide. It was clear to him and his teammates that something was wrong with Lou. The fact that he played through symptoms of Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) for an entire season was a miracle in itself. He was losing strength and mobility quickly.
1938 would be the Iron Horse’s last full season of baseball.
Lou made it through 8 games of the 1939 season with only 4 hits. On May 2nd, 1939, the Yankees captain removed himself from the starting lineup thus ending his consecutive games streak at 2,130. A sobering moment in baseball history.
Lou knew the aggressive nature of his disease and with no end in site, it was clear he would never play baseball again.
The New York Yankees celebrated Lou’s career on July 4th, 1939. In Yankee stadium in front of more than 61,000 fans, Gehrig gave a speech that will not be forgotten.
I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth..
A man who gave his all to this game was knocked down before he could see how much he changed the game. Lou Gehrig passed away on June 2nd, 1941 at the age of 37.