Lou Gehrig (1903 - 1941)

Lou Gehrig
1903 - 1941
updated July 04, 2020
Lou Gehrig was born in 1903 in New York, New York. He died in 1941 at Riverdale, New York at age 37.

Henry Louis Gehrig was an American professional baseball first baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees. Gehrig was renowned for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability, which earned him his nickname "The Iron Horse". Wikipedia
Born: June 19, 1903, Yorkville, New York, NY
Died: June 2, 1941, Riverdale, New York, NY
On July 4, 1939, one of baseball's greatest players stepped up to a microphone and delivered what would become one of the most famous speeches in baseball history. Just two years later, Lou Gehrig would die of ALS, a disease that would take on his name.
Gehrig's simple, elegant language — and an iconic rendition of it by actor Gary Cooper in the film "Pride of the Yankees" — have helped the speech live on for decades.
To mark the 75th anniversary of the moment, Richard Sandomir looked at the history of the speech. He joined Karen Given on Only A Game.
KG: Lou Gehrig lived in the public eye but did not love the spotlight in the way his Yankees teammate Babe Ruth did. Do you think Gehrig was reluctant to deliver the speech that day?
RS: I think he knew he had to say something because he and his wife worked on the speech the night before. You get the sense, though, that he didn’t bring a copy of it with him. He spoke extemporaneously. He seemed a little reluctant, perhaps, because he was overwhelmed with emotion, contemplative. He seemed emotional and his voice cracked. He did have tears making his speech.
His personality wasn’t suited to be deep in the spotlight the way Babe Ruth was. He was a mamma’s boy. He was a quiet guy who lived in Babe Ruth’s spotlight, as almost everyone else did. So I think he understood he had to say something, and he said as much as he needed to say, and he said it very, very well.
"This is more than just a retirement speech, this is a farewell speech." Richard Sandomir
KG: The iconic line from the speech is, “Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” But the whole text is fewer than 300 words, and there are other really touching moments. What other lines stand out to you?
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RS: Well, it’s how many people he thanked, and the language that he used. “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.” I mean, he remembers his mother-in-law and the groundskeepers in this speech. It was important for him to mention the big people — teammates, his managers, the president Ed Barrow — he remembered everybody. He grew up with immigrant roots. It was probably his impulse to thank the so-called “little people” whose names you’d never hear.
KG: In your article you make the point that it almost sounds like there was a ghostwriter or speechwriter for this. How so?
RS: [Gehrig] wasn’t known for making speeches. He was a Columbia graduate, so we can’t dismiss his intelligence, but a speech that good that doesn’t seem hackneyed now, 75 years later, to me suggests that he may have had somebody read over it or help write it. I’m just saying, when you look at goodbye speeches for athletes of all sorts in the last 75 years, you haven’t found one that’s structured as well and written as well, so it suggests to me that he had a little help.

KG: It is clear that it is so very well-written, but we also don’t have a great record of exactly what he said. In the age of DVRs and social media, how is it that the speech wasn’t immediately transcribed somewhere?
RS: I don’t think anyone expected something like this. It wasn’t like this was a Presidential inaugural, or something where you’d expect there to be a transcript. What’s interesting to me also is that, when you play that clip of him thanking his teammates, that’s different than the official version. He deviated from the text several times. And to me, it’s interesting that he said the “luckiest man” line early in the speech and in the movie it was moved to the last line of the speech for more cinematic impact.

KG: The film Pride of the Yankees starring Gary Cooper gives us a third version. What are the key differences?
[sidebar title="100 Years Later" width="330" align="right"] On the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the 2014 Tour de France will honor those who died in the war. [/sidebar]RS: It’s shorter. It thanks fewer people. It’s still nicely written — the speech in the movie is barely 200 words, when in real life it was about 270 — so they left out a lot, but it’s still kind of an amazing speech and it still provokes a lot of emotion.
And if you listen to the little clip that you have of Gehrig, he had a very, very thick Manhattan accent. Cooper was from Montana, and he had this lovely baritone. You just wonder, do people remember the speech because they heard Cooper or because they’ve heard the few clips left of Gehrig from the newsreels? It’s an interesting exercise in memory.
KG: It sounds like a lot of people heard this speech from Cooper himself.
RS: That’s what it seems to me because the movie came out in 1942, and it probably got its second life in TV reruns, and then VCR and DVDs, so I’m almost certain that more people have heard the whole speech through Cooper’s version than anything they’ve heard from Gehrig. We think we know the official version, but what we’ve heard may not be a perfect rendition of what he said.
So yeah, I think Cooper is the reason that the speech has lasted and endured as well. We never heard Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address but we kind of know some of the key lines. Imagine if there were a great version done by an actor. That has not endured — whether Raymond Massey or Daniel-Day Lewis or whoever’s played Lincoln, have any of them delivered a speech as memorably as Gary Cooper did of Gehrig’s speech?
KG: Do you think there will ever be another speech in sports that is as remembered as this one?
RS: I don’t think so because I think when athletes retire, it’s often at a press conference where they may have prepared remarks, but they don’t have the resonance -- they’re not dying. They may be dying their athletic death but they’re not dying. So this is more than just a retirement speech, this is a farewell speech.
More on Gehrig's Speech: MLB asked current first basemen to deliver lines from Gehrig's speech and produced this video. (Note: This video is not available on mobile devices. To watch, please visit /onlyagame/2014/07/05/lou-gehrig-speech-anniversary).
This segment aired on July 5, 2014.
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Lou Gehrig Biography

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Lou Gehrig
Most commonly known name
Male
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Lou
First name
Unknown
Middle name
Gehrig
Last name(s)
Henry Louis Gehrig, Lou Gehrig
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Unknown. Did Lou move a lot? Where was his last known location?
Last known residence
Lou Gehrig was born in in New York, New York County, New York United States
Birth
Lou Gehrig died in at Riverdale, in Bronx County, New York United States
Death
Lou Gehrig was born in in New York, New York County, New York United States
Lou Gehrig died in at Riverdale, in Bronx County, New York United States
Birth
Death
Lou Gehrig's desease
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at Kensico Cemetery, 273 Lakeview Ave, in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York United States 10595
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Lou Gehrig was nicknamed the Iron Horse.
The Day Lou Gehrig Made Yankee Stadium Weep

Calling Henry Louis Gehrig a steadfast first baseman for the Yankees is like calling the Pacific Ocean a pond. Better known as Lou, he was nicknamed the Iron Horse for his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played, a record that stood until Cal Ripken broke it in 1995.
Gehrig did not make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame for reliability alone. He played in six consecutive All-Star Games, was twice named the American League’s most valuable player, and was the first baseball player to have his number, 4, retired.
He set a plethora of records, some of which have never been broken. His record of 23 career grand slams lasted 75 years before it was broken in 2013 by another Yankee, Alex Rodriguez.
He was a consummate first baseman and hitter who stood out on Yankees dynasty teams with Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey and Babe Ruth, who preceded him in the batting order. He batted at least .300 for 12 consecutive seasons, achieving a career average of .340, and was no stranger to the long ball — he hit 493 home runs, twice hitting 49 in a single season and four in one game in 1932.
But Gehrig was not just synonymous with baseball prowess. He retired from the Yankees at 36 because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease. Lou Gehrig’s disease became the informal name for A.L.S., which led to his death on June 2, 1941.
Gehrig delivered a farewell speech to a crowd of 61,808 at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, during a sweltering break between games in a doubleheader with the Washington Senators. The Yankees had lost the first game, 3-2, and Gehrig took the field with his aging teammates from the 1927 World-Series-champion Yankees, a fearsome lineup known as Murderers’ Row. He was overcome with emotion but still delivered what some have called baseball’s Gettysburg Address.
“For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got,” Gehrig said, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s website. “Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Gehrig wipes away a tear on July 4, 1939. Credit Murray Becker/Associated Press
Gehrig wept as the crowd chanted, “We love you, Lou!” The Times reported that “it was without doubt one of the most touching scenes ever witnessed on a ball field and one that made even case-hardened ball players and chroniclers of the game swallow hard.”
Then Gehrig, who was still a team captain, returned to the dugout to watch the final game of the day. The Yankees won, 11-1.

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1903 - 1941 World Events

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In 1903, in the year that Lou Gehrig was born, the silent film, The Great Train Robbery opened. Although it was filmed in Milltown, New Jersey, it was a Western. Twelve minutes long, the film used a lot of innovative techniques - some scenes were hand colored and composite editing, on-location shooting, and frequent camera movement were used. Its budget was $150 (about $4000 currently) and was the most popular film until 1915 when Birth of a Nation was released.

In 1914, he was merely 11 years old when in August, the Panama Canal opened to traffic. Begun by the French in the 1880's and abandoned, the United States undertook further construction in 1904. After 10 years, and the elimination of malaria carrying mosquitoes (which caused immense delays for the French and the Americans), the 48 mile long artificial waterway - a series of locks - created a shortcut for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

In 1926, by the time he was 23 years old, on October 31st, Harry Houdini died in Michigan. Houdini was the most famed magician of his time and perhaps of all time, especially for his acts involving escapes - from handcuffs, straitjackets, chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, and more. He was president of the Society of American Magicians and stringently upheld professional ethics. He died of complications from a ruptured appendix. Although he had received a blow to the area a couple of days previously, the connection between the blow and his appendicitis is disputed.

In 1939, at the age of 36 years old, Lou was alive when in May, Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated film, reached a total international gross of $6.5 million which made it (to then) the most successful sound film of all time. First released in December 1937, it was originally dubbed "Disney's Folly" but the premiere received a standing ovation from the audience. At the 11th Academy Awards in February 1939, Walt Disney won an Academy Honorary Award - a full-size Oscar statuette and seven miniature ones - for Snow White.

In 1941, in the year of Lou Gehrig's passing, on June 25th, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, prohibiting racial discrimination in the defense industry. EO 8802 was the first federal action to prohibit employment discrimination - without prejudice as to "race, creed, color, or national origin" - in the U.S. Civil Rights groups had planned a march on Washington D.C. to protest for equal rights but with the signing of the Order, they canceled the March.

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Other Bios

Bio
c. 1883 - Aug 26, 1942
Bio
c. 1841 - Dec 1, 1900
Bio
c. 1861 - Jan 3, 1921
Bio
c. 1860 - Jun 25, 1947
Bio
c. 1863 - Jan 16, 1941
Bio
c. 1820 - Mar 1, 1898
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c. 1890 - Mar 4, 1904
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c. 1873 - Apr 19, 1946
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c. 1877 - Feb 3, 1928
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c. 1869 - Jul 29, 1947
Bio
c. 1905 - Dec 10, 1912
Bio
c. 1876 - Jan 30, 1918
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c. 1860 - Sep 11, 1920
Bio
c. 1878 - May 28, 1942
Bio
c. 1889 - Jan 28, 1945
Bio
c. 1894 - Jun 1, 1895
Bio
c. 1853 - Nov 28, 1935
Bio
c. 1904 - Apr 29, 1905
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c. 1925 - Jan 15, 1926
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- Oct 19, 1920
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