In front of 62,000 people on July 4, 1939, baseball player Lou Gehrig took the field at Yankee Stadium. There was nothing new for the “Iron Horse” to do this, as he had been the starting first baseman for the New York Yankees for a long time. This time, though, Gehrig was not on the baseball field; rather, he was giving a farewell address.
Lou Gehrig Day Remembering The Iron Horse
His voice heavy with passion, Gehrig told the crowd, “For the past two weeks, you have been reading about a bad break.” “(But) I think I’m the luckiest guy on Earth right now.”
Recently, he had the “terrible break” of being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Muscle movement is controlled by motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, which are progressively being destroyed by a degenerative disease. It has negative effects on communication, including swallowing, ambulating, and breathing.
On June 2, 1925, Lou Gehrig became a regular for the New York Yankees. On June 2, 1941, at the age of 37, he passed away. This year, 80 years later, Major League Baseball will celebrate the first ever Lou Gehrig Day. Participation from all 30 MLB stadiums helps generate awareness and funds for ALS research.
This is the Proverbial “Iron Horse.”
As an American hero, Gehrig was a bit of a surprise. Having been born in New York in 1903 to immigrant parents, he was a member of a low-income family. To to “Luckiest Man” author Jonathan Eig: “If it weren’t for baseball, he truly had very little prospects.”
In 1921, while attending Columbia University, Gehrig became interested in baseball. One of the Yankees’ scouts noticed him and signed him to the team in 1923. To Eig, Gehrig became “a symbol of fortitude” during the Great Depression, when the entire country was struggling.
While Lou Gehrig will always be remembered for his incredible 2,130 game hitting streak (a record that wouldn’t be broken until 1995), he also held the record for lifetime grand slams until 2013, was named MVP twice, and accomplished baseball’s uncommon Triple Crown in 1934.
He’s the “Iron Horse,” Eig adds; “he’s the Train;” he Never Misses a Day of Work.
According to Eig, Gehrig never sought the spotlight despite his Hall of Fame career, and he had no trouble doing it thanks to his colourful and contentious teammates like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio.
He stopped hitting the ball and eventually retired from baseball in 1939. Around six weeks later, he received the devastating news that he had ALS, thereby ending his baseball career. A surprise to his colleagues and admirers alike, he unwillingly took the microphone at the July 4 ceremony to announce his retirement.
“Gehrig told the MC that he was too moved to talk and didn’t want to interrupt. In response to the crowd’s chants of “We want Lou,” Gehrig’s manager, Joe McCarthy, “gave him a little shove and Lou went up to the microphone,” as recounted by Eig.
When you have a lady who has been a tower of strength and demonstrated more guts than you knew existed, he continued, “that’s the finest I know,” Gehrig’s statement is an exercise in thankfulness that is all the more amazing given the circumstances.
Everyone of us are going to experience tragedy, therefore it should serve as a powerful reminder to us all. “We’re all going to die,” says Eig. According to Gehrig, what really matters is not how long you live but how well you live.
Seeking a Treatment
In the United States, ALS is now popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and there is still no cure for it, even though it has been eight decades since his death. Larry Falivena, a member of the committee and board member of the ALS Association, explains that the day is about more than just paying tribute to the baseball great; it was formed by a group of 25 people living with ALS, carers, and family members of those with the disease.
Falivena, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, is taking three months off work to travel around the country with his family and raise awareness about the disease by visiting each of the 30 major league baseball stadiums.
According to Falivena, “we called it the ‘Iron Horse tour,’ after Lou Gehrig. Around two-thirds of the way through the tour, a few people approached me with the suggestion of petitioning Major League Baseball to establish an official Lou Gehrig Day.
The proposal was presented to Major League Baseball with the backing of the clubs Falivena saw on his tour. While several MLB teams have participated in local ALS fundraising efforts in the past, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, this would be the league’s first ever annual nationwide ALS campaign.
Falivena is hoping that by raising people’s consciousness, some of the 169 research projects currently underway in the US would receive greater money to continue their hunt for therapies that can increase people’s life expectancy or even a cure.
Six members of the group that started celebrating Lou Gehrig Day less than two years ago have passed away due to ALS; among them is co-founder Bryan Wayne Galentine, whom Falivena attributes with coming up with the concept.
According to Falivena, activities will vary from stadium to stadium because of the pandemic, but players, managers, and coaches will all wear red “4-ALS” wristbands with Gehrig’s retired Yankees’ uniform number on them as a symbol of the bond that was cemented on that summer day in 1939 when he said farewell.
To the cheering crowd, he said, “I might have been handed a nasty break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.” According to Falivena, Gehrig “reflects the community of persons with ALS” through his words and actions.
He describes these people as having a “very positive outlook” and a “fighting spirit” in the face of a severe condition. It sums up Lou perfectly, as he will be remembered not just as a brilliant player but also as a fantastic human being, I believe.