Famous Fourth of July Moments: Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man On Earth" Speech

Mihir Bhagat@mihirbhagatSenior Analyst IIIJuly 4, 2010

The Fourth of July is best known as the anniversary of the date on which the United Stated proudly declared their independence from Britain, now 234 years ago. Today, we celebrate the day by spending time with family and friends, hosting BBQs, watching fireworks, and most importantly, remembering the forefathers of our great nation. 

Meanwhile, this day in history is also a memorable one in the world of sports. On July 4, 1939, former New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig declared his final farewell "Luckiest Man On Earth" speech. 

Due to being diagnosed with a fatal disease known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Gehrig was forced to formally retire shortly before on June 21. 

Between a doubleheader against the Washington Senators, the team decided to hold the traditional retirement ceremonies. According to the New York Times , it was "perhaps as colorful and dramatic a pageant as ever was enacted on a baseball field [as] 61,808 fans thundered a hail and farewell."

Gehrig approached home plate and was first met by former teammate Babe Ruth and then-manager Joe McCarthy. When they left, Gehrig appeared to be too emotional to speak.

However, like always, his courage triumphed and he announced his famous speech, headlined by the signature line, "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." The speech alone was a prime example of a man who possessed prototypical sportsmanship, citizenship, and overall appreciation for life.

Immediately after the touching words, the fans that had come to pay tribute to their beloved hero applauded him for nearly two minutes, demonstrating how much he truly meant to the sport. 

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During his career, Gehrig had accomplished things that many ballplayers can't even dream of doing. He is a seven-time All Star, two-time AL MVP, a six-time World Series champion, and is a member of the 1900s All-Century Team.

Moreover, at only 36 years of age, he became the youngest man ever to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after the Baseball Writers Association of America waived the five-year waiting period. As we speak, Gehrig is still arguably considered the finest first baseman ever. 

Unfortunately, the "Iron Horse" eventually died on June 2, 1941. However, to this day, his spirit and legacy remain more alive than ever in a place that he will never be forgotten—our hearts.

I wish you all a very happy (and safe) 4th of July!