Lou Gehrig: Remembering the Baseball Icon Nearly 70 Years After His Passing

Bill RobbinsCorrespondent IMay 13, 2011

Lou Gehrig was one of the greatest players in MLB history and was an outstanding person as well.
Lou Gehrig was one of the greatest players in MLB history and was an outstanding person as well.

In the Spring of 1923, the New York Yankees decided to take a chance on a little-known player from Columbia University named Lou Gehrig.

Obviously, the rest was history as Gehrig went on to play for the Yanks for 17 seasons and put together one of the best careers for any player who has worn the pinstripes.

Over his storied big-league career, he had over 2,700 hits, mashed nearly 500 home runs, and drove in just under 2,000 runs, including an unprecedented 184 RBIs in his stellar 1931 season.

Did I mention that he also played in 2,130 consecutive games in the majors?

This streak would have likely been buried in the past if MLB Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr. didn't break it back in 1995.

Lou was also a very good defensive first-baseman, as he compiled a .991 career fielding percentage at that spot while playing for the Yanks.

But what many remember Lou Gehrig for today was his emotional, heart-warming speech that he gave to Yankees fans the day that he knew his baseball career was over.

The man known as "The Iron Horse" had come down with a form of ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a disease that attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord over time.

If most people today would have gotten the same bad break, they might have complained and blamed their misfortune on other things in life.

However, most people are not like Lou Gehrig.

The Yankee great showed a lot of humility as he gave his speech to the thousands of fans that showed up to see him for one last time.

"Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth", said Gehrig in his Retirement Speech on July 4, 1939.

The ironic thing was that Lou had gotten it wrong, his fans were the luckiest people on the face of the earth, because they got to watch a baseball legend dominate the sport for the previous 17 seasons.

The level of class that Gehrig showed that day was insurmountable.

In a career that had him in MLB legend Babe Ruth's shadow, he never once tried to the grab the spotlight away from Ruth or others.

This was just a testament to the kind of man that Lou Gehrig was: a blue-collar, hard-working professional who had the integrity, class and talent to become a hero to so many that watched him during his brilliant major-league career.

Thanks for the memories Lou, there still hasn't been a player like you in MLB, and there likely never will be again.