70 years ago, a man stood on the field at Yankee Stadium and told the world that he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth. That man was dying, but no one knew it.
He told them that he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth. He spoke about the great teammates and managers he played with, how blessed he felt for the family he had, and how good the game of baseball had been to him.
That man was Lou Gehrig, and on July 4, 1939, the man more commonly known as "The Iron Horse," had to walk away from baseball.
He'd been suffering with what is now known as ALS; a disease that causes muscles to twitch and eventually paralyze the individual. Something as simple as combing one's hair becomes impossible; forget about playing baseball.
Gehrig never once mentioned all the pain he'd been in or the fact that he couldn't even lace up his own cleats. Doing that would have been giving into the disease, and Lou Gehrig was too much of a fighter to do that.
For years, Gehrig had protected Babe Ruth in the Yankees' line up. He had taken a backseat to the Great Bambino, but never made a fuss about it. He was a team player, who went out and did his job every day.
It wasn't as if Gehrig was just an average player. It was somewhat unfortunate for him to be on the Yankees at the same time as Babe Ruth, because if Ruth wasn't there, Gehrig would've been noticed a lot more than he was.
He won two MVPs, and six World Series championships with the Yankees. However, Gehrig's most impressive stat is probably his 2,130 consecutive game streak, a record that wasn't broken until 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr.
Gehrig's "Farewell Speech" is one of the most recognizable speeches not only in sports, but in history. He had nothing prepared before he got up to the microphones, he simply spoke from his heart.
What makes his speech so compelling is that he praised everyone from Miller Huggins, to his family, to the grounds crew, because somehow they made his career.
He ended his speech by saying, "I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for." If that doesn't give you chills or bring a tear to your eye, I don't know what will. Two years later, he was gone.
70 years later, Major League Baseball is honoring Gehrig and raising awareness for the disease that now bears his name. Gehrig meant so much to baseball, but his impact goes beyond the game, it extends out all over the world.
Lou Gehrig was a great baseball player, but the words written on his monument really say it all about who he was... "A great man, a great teammate, and a great baseball player."
He's honored today more for being a great man and teammate than anything else.