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Lou Gehrig (1903 - 1941)

A photo of Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig
1903 - 1941
Born
1903
New York, New York County, New York, United States
Death
1941
Riverdale in Bronx County, New York, United States
Other Names
Henry Louis Gehrig, Lou Gehrig
Summary
Lou Gehrig was born in 1903 in New York, New York County, New York United States, and died at age 37 years old in 1941 at Riverdale in Bronx County. Lou Gehrig was buried on June 4, 1941 at Kensico Cemetery 273 Lakeview Ave, in Valhalla, Westchester County.
Updated: July 4, 2020
Biography ID: 110136788

Lou Gehrig's Biography

Family, friend, or fan this Collaborative Biography is for you to show & tell Lou's life so that he is always remembered.
About Lou

Introduction

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
Most commonly known as
Lou Gehrig
Full legal name
Henry Louis Gehrig, Lou Gehrig
Other names or aliases

Name & aliases

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1903
Birthday
New York, New York County, New York United States
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1941
Death date
Lou Gehrig's desease
Cause of death
Riverdale in Bronx County, New York United States
Death location

Death details

June 4, 1941
Funeral date
Kensico Cemetery 273 Lakeview Ave, in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York 10595, United States
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Obituary

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.

Average Age & Life Expectancy

Lou Gehrig lived 38 years shorter than the average Gehrig family member when he died at the age of 37.
The average age of a Gehrig family member is 75.
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Memories: Stories & Photos

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Lou Gehrig
Arthur K. Miller's portrait of Lou Gehrig's Farewell to Baseball.
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Lou Gehrig
A portrait by Arthur K. Miller.
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Babe Ruth
Arthur K. Miller's portrait of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
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Lou Gehrig
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Lou Gehrig
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Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth
A photo of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth
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Lou Gehrig
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Lou Gehrig
A photo of Lou Gehrig
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Lou Gehrig
A photo of Lou Gehrig
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Lou Gehrig
A photo of Lou Gehrig
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Lou Gehrig
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Lou Gehrig
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Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig
A photo of Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig
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Lou Gehrig
Portrait of Lou Gehrig by Arthur K. Miller.
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Family Tree & Friends

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Lou's Family Tree

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1903 - 1941 World Events

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In 1903, in the year that Lou Gehrig was born, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated in June after Henry Ford left another car company he founded in 1901 (which became the Cadillac Motor Company). He began Ford Motor Company with $28,000 in cash from twelve investors, two of whom (the Dodge brothers) later began their own car company. Henry Ford improved on assembly line techniques and has been so successful that his family still controls a very popular Ford line of cars and trucks.

In 1912, when he was only 9 years old, Arizona was admitted to the United States in February (on Valentine's Day). It became the 48th state in the Union. Previously a Spanish - then Mexican - territory, the U.S. paid $15 million dollars for the area in 1848. Arizona was the last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the United States.

In 1920, Lou was 17 years old when the National Football League, first called the American Professional Football Association, was created. College football was more popular than pro football and rising player salaries were bankrupting league owners. In response, owners created the NFL, using the pro baseball association as a model. Eleven teams were formed: the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles, Decatur Staleys, Hammond Pros, Massillon Tigers, Muncie Flyers, Racine Cardinals, Rochester Jeffersons and Rock Island Independents.

In 1935, he was 32 years old when on September 8th, Louisiana Senator Huey Long was shot by Dr. Carl Weiss. Weiss was shot and killed immediately by Long's bodyguards - Long died two days later from his injuries. Long had received many death threats previously, as well as threats against his family. He was a powerful and controversial figure in Louisiana politics (and probably gained power through multiple criminal acts). His opponents became frustrated with their attempts to oust him and Dr. Weiss was the son-in-law of one of those opponents. His funeral was attended by 200,000 mourners.

In 1941, in the year of Lou Gehrig's passing, on December 7th, the Japanese attacked the military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise aerial attack damaged 8 U.S. battleships (6 later returned to service), including the USS Arizona, and destroyed 188 aircraft. 2,402 American citizens died and 1,178 wounded were wounded. On December 8th, the U.S. declared war on Japan and on December 11th, Germany and Italy (allies of Japan) declared war on the United States. World War II was in full swing.

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