The Beautiful Rhetoric of Gehrig's "Farewell" Speech

Shanan H.Analyst IMarch 31, 2009

In my opinion, Lou Gehrig was one of baseball's greatest players. Let's not worry today about his wonderful stats, but what he told a huge crowd of Yankees fans, while staring death in the face:

This speech is featured on American Rhetoric as one of America's top 100 speeches. 

Delivered 4 July 1939, New York

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

          -(Not part of speech:)  This is one of the most memorable parts of the speech, and it was very impressive for him to say he's "The luckiest man on the face of the earth," while dying.

"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."

           (-Jeez, none of this sounds like something a dying man would say.  Yet, Gehrig did.)

"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 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."

         -A short speech, in comparison to the Joe Biden speech I sat though, yet, it made a point.  He thanked everyone who made his life.  And, he said things no dying man has ever said.

So today, as we remember one of the toughest workhorses ever to play our great game, let us not forget the power Gehrig had with his words alone.