This Saturday, July 4, 2009, is the 70th Anniversary of the day that Lou Gehrig gave his famous last speech at Yankee Stadium.  The New York Times reported online today that Major Leage Baseball will have the speech read at every game this Saturday during the seventh inning stretch.

“It’s an honor to pay tribute to this American Legend,” commissioner Bud Selig said.  However, the purpose does go beyond simply honoring one of the greatest players in MLB history.  The league also hopes to raise awareness for ALS, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis but more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. 

When Gehrig gave the speech on July 4, 1939, no one knew that the great man was essentially giving his goodbye speech.  He played in 2,130 consecutive games before taking himself out of the lineup on May 2, 1939 due to his declining performance.  He never played baseball again.

The Yankees announced his retirement on June 21 and proclaimed July 4th “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.”  Gehrig gave his famous speech between the games of a doubleheader that day.  During the ceremony, the Yankees retired his number 4, honoring him as the first player to ever have their number retired in MLB history.  Gehrig died nearly two years later, on June 2, 1941 at the age of 38.

Here is the famous speech:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins?  Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“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. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”

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