July 04, 2007

68 years later, Gehrig's speech still resonates: He can still see Gehrig, withered by the disease that would come to bear his name. He was standing frail on the field during a doubleheader intermission, a man less than two years away from a death that came exactly 16 years to the day that he replaced Wally Pipp in the Yankees' lineup. Anella can still feel the stadium's stillness. He can still hear the echoing words.

posted by justgary to baseball at 04:08 PM - 16 comments

I never did meet Lou Gehrig, but I do remember his speech. I did meet Babe Ruth in Feb. 1948 at Lang Field in St. Petersburg Fl. He was very sick but was still nice to all the fans that walked up to meet him.

posted by Brich1930b at 05:17 PM on July 04, 2007

I have a collection of classic speeches here. Stuff like Kennedy's "Ich bin ein berliner" etc... It has two baseball speeches. Babe Ruth and Gehrig. Is there any other sport which has generated such iconic non-sporting moments like this?

posted by Drood at 05:32 PM on July 04, 2007

For some reason our heroes today never seem to say things that resonate through time.

posted by sickleguy at 06:14 PM on July 04, 2007

Not to take anything away from Lou Gehrig who is one my alltime heroes, but I think that Pat Tillman's actions in choosing to enlist over playing in the NFL will resonate for a long, long time. Thanks for reminding me of him on the 4th of July. Seems very appropriate.

posted by cjets at 07:22 PM on July 04, 2007

Lou Gehrig is actually a personal hero to my family as well. In 1928, My grandfather, born and raised in Bed-Stuy, was having major problems adapting to college. He was attending Chapel Hill (that's the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for those who don't know), a major change for a boy from Brooklyn. He wanted to drop out and come home, but Great grand-dad was having none of it. So he went to his brother (My Grandfather's uncle) who was Gehrig's lawyer and friend and asked for help. My GF's uncle went to Gehrig and asked for his advice because Gehrig had struggled at Columbia as well. Lou Gehrig being Lou Gehrig took the time to write a personal letter to my grandfather (mailed November 10th, 1928). He told him my grandfather that he needed to give school a chance and he would be glad he did. My grandfather (A Dodger fan) was so inspired by the letter that he never complained again. He not only graduated, but his son (my dad) went to Chapel Hill as well. Some people are even better than their legend indicates. Gehrig is one of them. And the letter? It's a family heirloom. My grandfather gave it to my dad. Who gave it to me. One day it'll go to my son.

posted by cjets at 08:29 PM on July 04, 2007

My heart went out to Pat Tillman when I saw a photo of him in his dress greens with his garrison cap looking tiny on his muscular head.Every soldier's death is tragic but his is truly heroic.Hats off to you also,cjets.

posted by sickleguy at 08:55 PM on July 04, 2007

Can athletes be true heroes? I believe so. From everything I've ever read about the man, Gehrig went about his business with a quiet dignity. Gave it all every day, never missing a game until he had to find the courage to say that he wasn't the best player to be out there on the diamond. Then there was "the speech". No whining, no "why me". Just thankful that he had the opportunity to play the game he loved. I've probably seen the video clip 100 times, yet it still chokes me up every time.

posted by whitedog65 at 10:26 PM on July 04, 2007

In film of the speech, there is a moment that touches me about as much as anything Gehrig says, and I've never heard or read any discussion on it. Yankees manager Joe McCarthy walked Gehrig to the microphone. Once Gehrig was steady, head bowed, McCarthy turned to return to the team standing reverentially nearby. He leaned to take a step away, then immediately halted and turned back to Gehrig. It's unclear whether he felt he should, for appearances or security, stand with Gehrig, whether he saw some weakness in Gehrig that gave McCarthy pause, whether he had something he had intended to say to Gehrig in advance of the speech -- whatever the reason, here was this gristled, hardened baseball man, McCarthy, so far out of his element and facing a situation that has no clear protocol, evidently struggling with the moment and his role in it. Whatever crossed his mind, he thought better of it and continued on to rejoin the chorus, leaving Gehrig to stand alone. It's a pretty powerful moment. I was at Yankee Stadium today and they played the speech on the Jumbotron during an inning break. 68 years later, it still gets its due applause. Anella seems to have a unique and distinctive collection of baseball experiences -- he's a lucky guy. Not to take anything away at all from Gehrig's speech, but it's a shame that it seems a ballplayer has to be on his deathbed to have his words remembered. There is plenty of poignant eloquence -- spoken and written -- from Jackie Robinson (for one example) that certainly deserves equivalent reverence and iconic status, but for whatever reason just hasn't endured as well. Maybe the sentences are too long.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 10:29 PM on July 04, 2007

One thing is for sure. We are certainly lacking the true class of people like Gehrig in sports today. They had Gehrig. We have A-Rod... Anyone got a time machine?

posted by Drood at 04:22 AM on July 05, 2007

Is there any other sport which has generated such iconic non-sporting moments like this? Athletics - I had no regrets, I have no regrets, I will never have any regrets. We were there to stand up for human rights and to stand up for black Americans. We wanted to make them better in the United States. Boxing - "I strongly object to the fact that so many newspapers have given the American public and the world the impression that I have only two alternatives in taking this stand: either I go to jail or go to the Army. There is another alternative and that alternative is justice. If justice prevails, if my Constitutional rights are upheld, I will be forced to go neither to the Army nor jail. In the end I am confident that justice will come my way for the truth must eventually prevail." Formula 1 - "If I ever happen to have an accident that eventually costs me my life, I hope it is in one go. I would not like to be in a wheelchair. I would not like to be in a hospital suffering from whatever injury it was. If I'm going to live, I want to live fully. Very intensely, because I am an intense person. It would ruin my life if I had to live partially." Rugby - "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner." 1972 Olympics Rugby again [YouTube] Tennis - "Also know what it's like to see some black hero do well" Golf - "Green and black go well together, don't they?"

posted by JJ at 05:24 AM on July 05, 2007

Football - "The Jets will win on Sunday, I guarantee it." College football - "Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper." Honestly, though, through my spyglass, with an admittedly strong baseball and Yankee (by all its relevant definitions) bias, the Gehrig speech blows everything else away. It is unparalleled in its eloquence and self-revelation.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 09:32 AM on July 05, 2007

Lou Gehrig has been my hero since I was a little kid. Not just for the way he played baseball, but for the way he lived his life. Thanks for posting this justgary.

posted by lou at 04:25 PM on July 05, 2007

Too bad we can't get some valuable input from The Old Man.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:20 PM on July 05, 2007

Come on, you know he was there. He knew Gehrig, and actually helped him write his speech.

posted by tommybiden at 07:51 PM on July 05, 2007

That make me snigger. I don't think I've sniggered since I was about twelve. Nice work, Tommy.

posted by JJ at 04:18 AM on July 06, 2007

Damn, I made it all the way to the bottom, all the while thinking, "I can't believe I'm going to be the first one to make an Old Man reference!" It was exhilarating, and then Ying fucked it all up for me. Friggin' kids today.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 02:26 PM on July 07, 2007

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