Honoring #4's Enduring Legacy at Yankee Stadium 75 Years Later
July 4th often brings memories of summer barbeques, American flags waving and baseball. This year marks a special occasion in history, and it’s not the birth of the nation. It’s also one of the most memorable events of baseball history. In 1939 the New York Yankees honored their leader and Captain Lou Gehrig during Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.
On May 2, 1939 Lou Gehrig took himself out of the starting lineup against Detroit ending a streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. The once strong and reliable “Iron Horse” was crippled by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and was forced to retire from the game. Two months following this event, the Yankees held a special ceremony to honor their brave leader at Yankee Stadium. Several high profile guests were in attendance to pay tribute to Gehrig including New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Even the archrival New York baseball Giants honored Gehrig with several gifts. Once all the gifts had been given and guests had spoken, Gehrig went up to the microphone to address the nearly 62,000 fans in attendance in what would become one of the most memorable speeches of all time.
“Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” were the words remembered for a lifetime. A proud Gehrig battling a horrible disease, looked not on his impending tragic fate, but rather on all the good the game of baseball did for him and his life. Gehrig closed the speech with the lasting message, “I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
On June, 2 1941, nearly 2 years after giving his speech, Gehrig died at age 37. Ed Barrow, the president of the Yankees in 1940, retired the number 4 forever. To this day Lou Gehrig remains the only Yankee to ever where the number 4.
Today Lou Gehrig is remembered as the icon who helped spread awareness of ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.